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Department of History

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9/11 and the Constitution: A Conversation

Aug 30, 2021

Author: Brian McNeill

VCU Libraries is hosting a video conversation on how 9/11 radically changed how the Constitution is interpreted.9/11 conceptual illustration of one of the World Trade Center towers [View Image]

In recognition of Constitution Day and the 20th anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, VCU Libraries is hosting a video conversation on the effects of 9/11 on the Constitution and how 9/11 fits into a series of momentous events that have radically altered how the Constitution is interpreted.

The conversation, “9/11 and the Constitution: A Conversation,” is available now on the VCU Libraries YouTube channel and features John M. Aughenbaugh, Ph.D., an associate professor in the Department of Political Science in the College of Humanities and Sciences, and Carolyn Eastman, Ph.D., an associate professor in the Department of History. Nia Rodgers, public affairs research librarian with VCU Libraries, is the moderator.

The discussion covers topics such as the Patriot Act, which was enacted in the aftermath of the attacks and that greatly expanded law enforcement’s ability to conduct domestic and international surveillance.

In her opening remarks, Eastman says the U.S. has faced terrifying moments throughout its history, including wars, pandemics, severe economic hardship and terrorism.

“Just as often in American history, we find that our fears, at times, have outweighed our dedication to constitutional principles,” she says. “And I think the aftermath of 9/11, that was a terrifying time. But it was the not the first time we had suspended our civil rights in the face of a crisis. The thing is, there is nothing scared people won’t do to stop being scared, and they will try to do that to somebody else.”

“In a lot of ways,” she added, “these questions about the Constitution and our civil rights are really important in times of crisis, if not more important, during times of crisis.”

The video will be available through Sept. 11. For details and background material, visit the VCU Libraries website.

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