What the Constitution Means to Us 2023

September 14, 2023 |  5:00 - 7:00 PM | Gasson 100 | Please register to attend

we the people

Since the founding era of the United States, the American Constitution has been central to our public life. It has inspired hope, and it has provoked despair. It has remained in place, as few other national constitutions have. Yet it has also repeatedly been changed, and some today think it needs to change again. At a moment when its basic meaning seems more contested than ever, how should we look at the Constitution today? 

This is the question at the center of “What the Constitution Means to Us,” the Clough Center’s second annual celebration of Constitution and Citizenship day. Loosely inspired by Heidi Schreck’s award-winning play, this event will feature an all-star panel of cross-disciplinary scholars from the Boston College faculty. It will also showcase the work of select undergraduate and graduate students from across the University. 

This year we are thrilled that Sarah Lunnie — one of the co-creators of What the Constitution Means to Me, of Broadway and Netflix fame and a Boston College alumna (Class of ‘08) — will participate as part of her visit to the Clough Center. Lunnie is Senior Dramaturg at The Public Theater. 

Please join us for a rich evening of conversation, debate, and reflection on America’s founding document, followed by a lively reception.

Schedule and Registration

September 14, 2023 |  5:00-7:00 PM | Gasson 100

5:00pm: Welcome

5:10pm: Faculty & Student Remarks

6:15pm: Community Discussion

6:30pm: Reception


Sarah Lunnie

Sarah Lunnie ('08) is a dramaturg, and if you don’t know that word, you aren’t alone. She collaborates with playwrights, directors, designers, and actors to tell new stories onstage and elsewhere. The new work she has created has appeared throughout the United States and on Broadway. Notable projects include dramaturgy for Shayok Misha Chowdhury’s Public Obscenities; Heidi Schreck’s What The Constitution Means to Me; Jeff Augustin’s Where The Mountain Meets the Sea, featuring original music by the Bengsons; The Mad Ones’ Miles For Mary and Mrs. Murray’s Menagerie; Lucas Hnath’s The Christians and A Doll’s House, Part 2; and Charles Mee’s Under Construction, created with SITI Company, among many others. Sarah previously worked in the literary offices of Actors Theatre of Louisville and Playwrights Horizons, and was an Associate Artistic Director of the Jungle Theater in Minneapolis. She is the Senior Dramaturg of the Public Theater.

Paulo Barrozo

Paulo Barrozo works on public law and legal theory. He offers new understandings of rights, punishment, cruelty, structural mercy, legal education, distribution, institutionalization, the nature of the political realm, the nature and evolution of law, and the history of legal thought. Before joining Boston College Law School, he was a lecturer in social thought at Harvard University, where he was the first recipient of the Stanley Hoffman Prize for Excellence in Teaching.Barrozo received an S.J.D. from Harvard University and a Ph.D. in political science from the Rio de Janeiro University Research Institute.  In his pro bono activities, Barrozo advocates for the rights of children and the neurodiverse. His work is available at ssrn and on his website paulobarrozo.com.

Natana J. DeLong-Bas

Dr. Natana J. DeLong-Bas is the author of Shariah: What Everyone Needs to Know (with John Esposito, 2018), Islam: A Living Faith (2018), and Wahhabi Islam: From Revival and Reform to Global Jihad (rev. ed. 2008, translated into Arabic, Russian, and French and named 1 of the top 5 books for understanding Islam by the Wall Street Journal), among other books. She is editor of Islam, Revival & Reform: Redefining Tradition for the Twenty-First Century (2022) and The Oxford Handbook of Islamic Reform (forthcoming 2023), and Editor-in-Chief of Oxford Bibliographies Online – Islamic Studies. Past President of the American Council for the Study of Islamic Societies (ACSIS), she is an expert on Islam and Christianity, comparative scripture (Bible and Qur’an), women and gender, Islamic law, the environment, extremism, and the Arabian Gulf countries.

Daniel Kanstroom

Daniel Kanstroom is Professor of Law and the Thomas F. Carney Distinguished Scholar at Boston College Law School, where he currently teaches Immigration and Refugee Law, International Human Rights Law, and Administrative Law. He is Faculty Director of the Rappaport Center for Law and Public Policy and co-Director of the Center for Human Rights and International Justice. Professor Kanstroom has published widely in the fields of U.S. immigration law, human rights, criminal law, and European citizenship and asylum law.  His major works include Aftermath: Deportation Law and the New American Diaspora  (Oxford University Press 2012) and Deportation Nation: Outsiders in American History (Harvard University Press 2007), and he is currently completing a book entitled Deportation World: Dynamic Sovereignty and the Future of Migrants’ Rights (forthcoming Harvard University Press). His articles, book reviews and op-eds have appeared in the Harvard Law Review, the New York Times, the French Gazette du Palais, and many other venues.

Thibaud Marcesse

Thibaud Marcesse received his Ph.D. in Government at Cornell University in 2018. His dissertation investigated the impact of rights—based policies in the field of poverty alleviation on electoral politics at the local level in rural India. His research has most recently appeared in World Development. He is currently working on a book manuscript that will focus on the interactions between elected officials and local state bureaucrats in the context of public policy reform and decentralization in India. Thibaud was awarded a National Science Foundation Award for his field research. Prior to attending graduate school, Thibaud worked in international development, with organizations such as the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), the National Democratic Institute (NDI) and Chemonics International.

Angie (Maria de los Angeles) Picone

I am historian of Modern Latin America specializing in the southern cone. I am interested in the intersection of nature and nation-making in border regions. Particularly, I am drawn to questions on how people experienced a shared sense of community through their spatial practices.

My current book project, Landscaping Patagonia: A Spatial and Environmental History of Nation-Making in the Chilean-Argentine Borderlands, examines how explorers, migrants, authorities, and visitors constructed their versions of ‘Chile’ and ‘Argentina’ in the Northern Patagonian Andes. I argue that between the 1890s and 1940s, these groups created shared versions of nationhood through regional, often cross-border, interpretations and transformations of the natural environment. This study shows how different actors – namely explorers, settlers, authorities, visitors, and bandits – sought to make Patagonia their own by transforming a collection of geographical sites into a landscape that evoked a shared past and a common future.

At Boston College, I teach courses on Modern Latin America, Spatial History, and Borderlands. Additionally, I am affiliated to the Graduate Certificate in Digital Humanities. My teaching frequently includes unessay assignments and digital projects, from board games to websites.

For the Fall 2022, I am also Visiting Scholar at the Weatherhead Center for International Affairs at Harvard University.

Aziz Rana

Aziz Rana is a Provost’s Distinguished Fellow at Boston College and will be the J. Donald Monan, SJ, Chair in Law and Government beginning in 2024. His research and teaching center on American constitutional law and political development, with a particular focus on how shifting notions of race, citizenship, and empire have shaped legal and political identity since the founding. He is the author of The Two Faces of American Freedom (Harvard University Press) and the forthcoming book, The Constitutional Bind: Why a Broken Document Rules America (University of Chicago Press).  Prior to joining the Boston College faculty he was the Richard and Lois Cole Professor of Law at Cornell Law School. He received his A.B. summa cum laude from Harvard College and his J.D. from Yale Law School. He also earned a Ph.D. in political science at Harvard, where his dissertation was awarded the university's Charles Sumner Prize.

Kay Lehman Schlozman

Kay Lehman Schlozman serves as J. Joseph Moakley Endowed Professor of Political Science. She received a B.A. from Wellesley College and an M.A. and Ph.D. from the University of Chicago. The winner of the American Political Science Association’s 2004 Rowman and Littlefield Award for Innovative Teaching in Political Science, she teaches undergraduate and graduate courses in American politics.

She is co-author of Unequal and Unrepresented: Political Inequality and the People’s Voice in the New Gilded Age (with Henry Brady and Sidney Verba); The Unheavenly Chorus: Unequal Political Voice and the Broken Promise of American Democracy (with Sidney Verba and Henry Brady), which won two PROSE Awards (for Government and Politics and Excellence in Social Sciences) awarded to scholarly books by the American Association of Publishers; The Private Roots of Public Action: Gender, Equality, and Political Participation (with Nancy Burns and Sidney Verba), which was co-winner of the APSA’s Schuck Prize; Voice and Equality: Civic Voluntarism in American Politics (with Sidney Verba and Henry E. Brady), which was the winner of the APSA's Philip Converse Prize and the Book Award of the American Association for Public Opinion Research; Organized Interests and American Democracy (with John T. Tierney); and Injury to Insult: Unemployment, Class and Political Response (with Sidney Verba). She has written numerous articles in professional journals and is editor of Elections in America and co-editor of The Future of Political Science (with Gary King and Norman H. Nie).

Among her professional activities, she has served as Secretary of the American Political Science Association and as chair of the APSA’s organized section on Elections, Public Opinion and Voting Behavior. She is the winner of the APSA’s 2006 Frank Goodnow Award for Distinguished Service to the Profession of Political Science; the 2016 Samuel Eldersveld Career Achievement Award; and the American Political Science Association’s 2018 Warren E. Miller Lifetime Achievement Award, which honors an outstanding career of intellectual accomplishment and service to the profession in the field of elections, public opinion, and voting behavior. She is a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.

Campus Map and Parking

Parking is available at the nearby Beacon Street and Commonwealth Avenue Garages.

Boston College is also accessible via public transportation (MBTA B Line - Boston College).

Directions, Maps, and Parking

Visitor Parking Information

Boston College strongly encourages conference participants to receive the COVID-19 vaccination before attending events on campus.

Student Submissions

we the people

Have thoughts on the Constitution? What do you appreciate about it lately? What would you change if given the chance? Share what the Constitution means to you –in whatever medium suits you best -- as part of a campus-wide initiative by the Clough Center for the Study of Constitutional Democracy. This event is partly inspired by Heidi Schreck's recent Pullitzer-nominated play, What the Constitution Means to Me.

Individual entrants will receive a $20 gift card to the campus bookstore and will be eligible to have their work featured at our fall celebration or in one of our publications.

“What the Constitution Means to Us” is a celebration of Constitution Day and Citizenship Day for the whole BC community, sponsored by the Clough Center for the Study of Constitutional Democracy and the Schiller Institute for Integrated Science and Society, to be held on September 14, 2023. At a moment when many perceive democracy itself to be an endangered idea at home and abroad, this event will offer BC students and faculty from across schools and disciplines an opportunity to reflect on the personal meaning of our country’s founding document for them. Non-US nationals may choose to reflect on the US or another country’s founding document as well. We recognize, and celebrate, that the Constitution means many things to many people today, just as it always has. That’s why we want to hear what it means to you. We are excited to create a forum for showcasing the diversity of experiences, insights, and opinions within our own BC community.

For this celebration of Constitution Day and Citizenship Day, the Clough Center and the Schiller Institute are soliciting personal reflections on the Constitution. These reflections can be written, spoken, or musical works, visual art or digital art, including video. A select number of these contributions will be showcased on September 14th, at a celebratory reception featuring faculty and student speakers and an art gallery. The Clough Center will award a prize of $200 to the top general contribution, and the Schiller Institute will award a prize of $200 to the top contribution specifically geared toward the Constitution and energy, health, or the environment. (See the prompts below for ideas!) Other contributions may be showcased on the Clough Center’s website, or in our official newsletter.

Student Speaker

All submissions should be submitted to the Clough Center by 09/04/23. Participants are welcome to enter multiple submissions.


Some Questions to Guide Your Reflection 

Wondering what you might have to say about the Constitution? Below are some of the questions we've been thinking about. We offer them to invite your creativity, not suppress it--if you have other questions you'd like to explore, please feel free to engage them!

  • How does the Constitution shape your understanding of yourself as a citizen?
  • What do you see as your most important rights and responsibilities? What meaning do individual rights enshrined in the Constitution and its amendments have for you? Have any of these rights played an important role in your own life? Are there any you have strong feelings about – positive, negative, or mixed? 
  • How has the history of the Constitution shaped your family's past, or that of the communities you come from? Were your ancestors ever denied their rights, or treated unjustly, by the Constitution? Did they ever gain rights they didn’t have before? How has that history affected you personally?
  • Are there any rights or protections missing from the Constitution as it currently stands, that you think should be there? Any further amendments that you think need to be made to safeguard the future of the nation or planet? 
  • Who gets to regulate free speech? What does the Constitution say, or not say, about contemporary disputes over the vote? 
  • How do recent Supreme Court cases reflect on the strengths or limitations of the U.S. Constitution? Do you think any of them get it wrong?


Specific Questions for Environment, Health, and Energy

  • How can the Constitution be used to address climate change? What provisions are relevant to climate change and how have they been used (or under-used)? Any further amendments needed?
  • Does the Constitution provide sufficient rights and protections to ensure equitable health services and outcomes for all? Have these been important in your own life or those of family members?
  • How does the Constitution support the development of new renewable energy technologies? In what ways is it a help or a hindrance to discovering, developing, producing, and marketing these technologies?


Submission Formats:

  • Written and spoken reflections
  • Performance art
  • Visual artwork
  • Digital work


More detailed submission guidelines may be found on the submission entry form.