George F. Will asks ‘Is Constitution Day Unconstitutional?’

Written by
Sarah Malone, Program in American Studies
Sept. 25, 2019

On September 17, 2019, syndicated columnist George F. Will delivered Princeton University’s 2019 Constitution Day lecture, titled “Is Constitution Day Unconstitutional?” Princeton University President Christopher L. Eisgruber delivered the response and led discussion with Will following the lecture.

“The title of this lecture,” Will said, “is, of course, a jest. Sort of.” He said the point of the jest was that “nowhere in the Constitution’s Article I, Section 8 is there mention of an enumerated power for Congress to declare such a day” [as Constitution Day].

Given that “the Constitution stipulates very few specific powers that the government does not have,” Will said, the “great question [...] about construing the Constitution” is what “interpretive principle is compatible” with “a Constitution that provides a firm, knowable foundation not only for restraint on government but also for giving the government some momentum toward a defining purpose.”

The lecture was held in McCosh Hall, Room 50 at 4:30 p.m., presented by the Program in American Studies with support from the Office of the Provost. The James Madison Program in American Ideals and Institutions and the Program in Law and Public Affairs cosponsored. Anne Cheng, professor of English and American studies and director of the Program in American Studies, introduced.

Will received his Ph.D. in politics from Princeton in 1968 and has served as a University trustee. Eisgruber is a 1983 Princeton graduate; Cheng is a 1985 Princeton graduate.