The American Constitution

(Listening comprehension)

I. The Bicentennial Celebration

1) What do the organizers of the celebrations on the occasion of 200 years of the American Constitution intend?

Celebrations on the occasion of 200 years of democratic rule

intended to highlight activities organized

> to stimulate interest and understanding in this historic document

> to reaffirm[?reinform?] the commitment to the rights and responsibilities of being a U.S. citizen

2) What achievements do the key players of the Bicentennial Commission emphasize?

The key players of the Bicentennial Commission pledged their commitment to a celebration of citizenship:

a. Warren Burger (former Supreme Court judge, now 80 years old):

> There had been no place in the world which guaranteed

> freedom of religion

> freedom of speech

> freedom of assembly/meeting

> freedom of the press

b. Ann Kann

emphasizes the American concept of diversity; the Constitution is not a dead document [because it is responsible for one important thing:]

people who are very diverse live together in peace

respect one another´s views.

c. David Kearns (Xerox Corporation)

Original meaning of document:

to teach, to instruct, to educate

Education is the transmission of citizenship, civilization is not simply in herited, it has to be learned and relearned by each new generation.

1787 created a government completely new and different, it changed world history. [a little bit baloney]

d. Speaker

Changes over 200 years.

For all its frustrations and stalemates it chalked up impressive achievements of the legislative branch helping to keep democracy alive.

3) Write down at least two achievements of the 99th Congress:

Achievements of the 99th Congress:

> overhauled the tax code

> adopted sweeping changes of the immigration laws

> strengthened environmental protections

> new measures to combat the dug problem

II. The participants of the panel discussion in Washington

1) What do you get to know about:

Lindy Boggs Ted Stevens

8th term in House of Representatives 11th in seniority in Senate

Democrat from Louisiana (since 1968) from Alaska

House Comittee on Appropriation Senate´s Assist Republ.


(=money for federal agencies and depart- (1977-85 = eight years)

ments to operate) Senate Rules Committee

House delegate to the Bicentennial Appropriations Committee

Commission Governmtl Affairs Committee

Number of firsts in her political career: co-chairman on the senate´s

> first woman from her state to be observers´group to the arms elected to Congress, to the House negotiations with the Soviets

> first woman to have chaired the con-

vention of a major American political

party (New York 1976)

Question to Boggs/Stevens:

Speaker: Does the system really work?


" It works very much the way the framers of the Constitution envisioned that it worked.

> House of Rep : still the people´s body

it is here that the people govern

they are the checks and balances that are


> Senate more deliberative body

but now, too, elected directly by the people

[What does Congress do?]

> to carry out the people´s wishes

> to bring to gether all the divergent views difficulties, and needs, and expressed desires of our population from all the 50 states.

> a remarkable body of legislative action

Conclusion: the framers of the Constitution would be comfortable coming back.


Political power has ebbed and flowed. the American people have preferred Republican Presidents and Democratic Congressmen or Congresses. Does that mean they are letting both parties share the power?


> shows highly individualistic character of elections: diversity of system


The entire House is elected every two years, that is in the middle of a President´s term. It is the chance of a referendum on how the Administration is doing and what kind of Congress voters want to have.

Speaker: it gives the voters a more direct voice.

III. The Transatlantic Satellite-link debate

a) Oslo

doctrine of incorporation under which Bill of Rights is applicable to the states

too difficult- left out

b) Munich

To which extent is it not only the Constitution but the American people and the spirit of the American people that have made the Constitution work and made it alive?


The spirit was fostered by the freedoms guaranteed in the constitution.

The first Ten Amendments (= Bill of Rights) were one of the basic conditions for the basic acceptance by the first states, that is the states were insisting on the freedoms for their citizens and were insisting vis-a-vis the federal government. The spirit that has nurtured and preserved the constitution comes from the freedoms we have great respect for.


Bill of rights had to be promised before several states would ratify the Constitution. It made a more perfect union