Becoming America: The Constitutional Convention of 1787

Becoming America: The Constitutional Convention of 1787

How did the United States Constitution become the supreme law of the land? Who wrote it? What issues did they face? Why is the Constitution important to us today? The Constitution is under attack at the same time few Americans can answer simple questions about what it says and what it means. Becoming America: The Constitutional Convention of 1787 addresses these important issues in a unique blend of interviews with nationally acclaimed scholars and experts and lively, upbeat songs from the new musical “Convention: The Birth of America.” Designed for “we the people” of all ages, Becoming America will take you on a tour of America in 1787 and in-person encounters with Presidents George Washington and James Madison. Sponsored by the Center for Civics Education at Concordia University Irvine, each of seventeen episodes is co-hosted by Dr. Jo Ellen Chatham, Judge James P. Gray (retired) and the Honorable Bijan Kian. An underlying theme is the notion that “The United States of America is the perfect idea. The United States of America is a work in progress.” How do we, as Americans, continue to build on the original principles of life, liberty, the pursuit of happiness, and equality under the law? Only a basic understanding of those principles, their origin and purpose, and commitment to their fulfillment can we assure their endurance and applicability to all Americans and those who live here. Becoming America promises to inform, inspire and entertain you through an historic journey unique in the history of the world and foundational to how our government was established and has endured for more than two hundred thirty years. The Constitution is ours. It belongs to us, “we the people.”


May 9, 2023 58 mins

Preservation of our founding documents and records of debates and other commentaries on the purposes and intentions of the Founders are essential to both our past and present application of the Constitution and the Bill of Rights. They are more than memories of the past, they continue to be the foundation upon which our government and liberties rest. In this final episode of Becoming America, David Ferriero, Archivist of the United...

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America is perfect idea; the United States is a work in progress. This has been a constant theme during our “Becoming America” series. In today's society, more diverse than ever, how do the ideas that motivated our Found...

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April 25, 2023 55 mins

The Preamble of the Constitution contains its most revolutionary statement, beginning with the remarkable statement that the new government would be based on the authority of “We the People.” In this episode of “Becoming America,” Dr. Jo Ellen Chatham, Judge Jim Gray, and Bijan Kian interview Judge Andrew Guilford. Retired after serving for nearly 14 years as a United States Federal District Court Judge, Judge Guilford is one ...

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Fortunately, there are thousands of documents recording the drafting and ratification of our Constitution and the Bill of Rights. Letters, journals, newspaper articles, political pamphlets and much more provide a comprehensive account – including from both sides - those who favored and those who disapproved of the Constitution. Our guest in this episode has been shaping the conversation about our American history through ...

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It can be lonesome at the top, especially when you lead not only a country but a country at the cusp of transformation. At the creation of the United States, there was one indispensable man. He commanded the Continental Army through the Revolutionary War, presided over the Constitutional Convention, and was elected to be our first President. We all know him. His name George Washington. Dr. Jo Ellen Chatham, Judge Jim Gray, and...

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Why did our Founding Fathers ignore the issue of slavery when crafting the Constitution? To understand this better, we need to put everything in context with the times. The incipient federation was at risk of many Southern states not joining if slavery was outlawed, and many of the delegates themselves were slave owners. But to their credit, they did make the institution much less brutal. To help us gain a better understanding of t...

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March 28, 2023 60 mins

The Constitutional Convention was by no means a smooth proceeding. The delegates represented a wide array of interests and opinions and argued about almost every provision before coming to a near-unanimous conclusion before the Convention adjourned. Among the most hotly contested issues were the relationship between the states and the new national government and the powers assigned to the three branches of the national government. ...

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March 21, 2023 60 mins

Many critical issues divided the delegates to the Constitutional Convention. One of the most contentious was how much power the central government should wield. Nearly everyone at the table agreed that The Articles of Confederation were weak and that giving the central government more authority was essential. But how much power should that central authority have and how should it be organized? Should each state be represented equal...

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March 14, 2023 54 mins

We all learned from school that the Constitutional Convention was held in May of 1787 within of what is now known as Independence Hall. But how much do we know about the process the Founding Fathers followed in those crucial four months? Dr. Bryan M. Santin is here to discuss how the Constitutional Convention operated. He explains the major rules set in place, the number of delegates present, the purpose of action committees, and h...

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March 7, 2023 60 mins

The First Amendment of the US Constitution guarantees the right of every citizen to religious freedom. While the Founders held varying religious opinions, they agreed that every individual must the right to hold their own religious beliefs and practices without government interference. Fast forward to the present time, Americans have become more diverse in religion, including having no religious f...

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February 28, 2023 48 mins

More than 200 years ago, leaders representing twelve of the thirteen States calling themselves the United States of America gathered gathered together in Philadelphia. Concerned about the lack of cooperation among the states, a looming economic crisis, potential insurrections in the states and unstable relations with foreign nations, their critical meeting led to the creation of the United States and a model of government unique in...

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February 21, 2023 63 mins

Article III of the Constitution establishes the federal judiciary, including the Supreme Court. Among issues facing the courts over many decades are rights and roles of women. Although the Constitution makes no distinction between men and women, state law often made such distinction and many were challenged in federal courts. Diving deep into this controversial topic, Judge Jim Gray, Dr.  Jo ...

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February 14, 2023 65 mins

America is built on our collective hopes and dreams to govern ourselves and to secure the promises to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Yet, there are times in our history when these were not applied equally to all people and must not be ignored. Acknowledging them and addressing their legacies is a path to assuring that the promises of America are available by all. Dr. Jo Ellen Chatham and co-hosts Judge Jim Gray and Bij...

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February 7, 2023 53 mins

In each episode, we break down the events at the Constitutional Convention of 1787 that drafted our Constitution. If there is a figure more suited than any other to join the podcast, it would no doubt be the Father of the Constitution himself, President James Madison. What would you ask if you could interview James Madison? What do you believe would be his thoughts on the issues facing America at that time? In this discussion, Dr. ...

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January 31, 2023 58 mins


Building what is now the United States of America was far from a tidy process of state-building. Much of what defines America was unprecedented when the Founders met in Philadelphia and drafted a new form of government, and ours were often in serious disagreement. In this episode of Becoming America, we are taken back to that time when opponents of the Constitution actually believed its ratification was tantamount to overthro...

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January 24, 2023 36 mins

If you went back to the time more than two hundred thirty years ago when the Constitution was being written, you probably wouldn’t recognize the place at all. America in 1787 was very different than today. The song “Off to Philadelphia,” talks about rutted trails of mud instead of roads and traveling by horse and coach instead of cars and trains. What was it really like to live during those pivota...

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January 18, 2023 69 mins

This trailer episode introduces the entire project with numerous excerpts from each episode.

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The United States of America is a perfect idea, but the United States of America is a work in progress. Our Founding Fathers, the people who were responsible for the birth of America, weren’t perfect. They were human beings who had personal flaws and vested interests. But what they was unprecedented. It was an experiment i...

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