Watch Monday July 14, 2014 at 7pm on WORLD
CONSTITUTION USA with Peter Sagal takes viewers on a fast-paced, surprising journey across the nation to examine the 4,418 words — and 27 amendments — that made America. The series coincides with the 225th anniversary of the ratification of the Constitution.
Sagal, host of NPR’s popular Wait Wait… Don’t Tell Me!, travels cross-country — from Tyler, Texas, to Missoula, Montana; from Cranston, Rhode Island, to Berkeley, California — on a customized red, white and blue Harley-Davidson to find out what the Constitution means in the 21st century, how it unites us as a nation and how it has nearly torn us apart. Sagal talks with ordinary Americans who are struggling with issues of affirmative action, same-sex marriage, voting rights, the role of government and equal protection.
“There is one thing that sets us apart from most other nations in the world and that is our Constitution,” says Justice Sandra Day O’Connor, whom Sagal interviews for CONSTITUTION USA. “It serves every American every day. No citizen can be denied due process of law or equal protection under our laws. We are truly blessed.”
At a time when polls indicate that only 38 percent of Americans can name all three branches of U.S. government (2011 survey by The Annenberg Public Policy Center), CONSTITUTION USA sets out to illuminate, with style and humor, this remarkably misunderstood document. CONSTITUTION USA uses an innovative visual approach, combining top-line animation and graphics with archival footage from television and movies to bring to life both the history and the actual text of the Constitution.
“If you really stop and think about it, the Constitution is all around us all the time” says Sagal. “And though many of us don’t really understand the document, that has never stopped us from arguing about what it means.”
“Tackling a topic as important as the Constitution, and doing it in a way that is not only educational, but entertaining as well, is the essence of what PBS stands for,” says Beth Hoppe, Chief Programming Executive and General Manager, General Audience Programming, PBS.
“And timing the series to coincide with the anniversary of an important milestone in U.S. history is another way we demonstrate value as America’s largest classroom. At any moment, anyone can tune in to a local PBS station and find relevant content that in some way relates to what’s going on in the world.”
“Public broadcasting stations and producers owe their existence, in large part, to the guarantee of freedom of expression contained in the First Amendment to the Constitution,” said Patricia Harrison, president and CEO of the Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB). “Through public broadcasting, Americans are informed, educated and entertained; our democracy and civil society strengthened. We are proud to support CONSTITUTION USA, which offers a unique and contemporary perspective on how the Constitution, an important part of our shared history, continues to guide us in addressing the issues and challenges we face today.”