The National Constitution Center has received a $5.5 million grant from the Templeton Foundation to create "a national Coalition of Freedom" designed to enhance awareness of the rights set forth in the nation's founding documents, Jeffrey Rosen, center president and chief executive, said Monday.
The grant will fund creation of an online interactive Constitution, short story and essay contests for students, Town Hall-style debates at the center and other locations, and a contest challenging teachers to develop plans to increase constitutional literacy in their schools. The contest includes prizes of up to $100,000 for the winning schools and $10,000 for the winning students.
Rosen said the Templeton grant will help the center in its effort at becoming the go-to "nonpartisan resource for constitutional education and debate."
"I'm especially excited that we can now create the best interactive Constitution on the Web, supervised by an advisory board cochaired by leaders of the conservative Federalist Society and liberal American Constitution Society," said Rosen. "In these polarized times, it's crucial for there to be one place in America where liberals and conservatives can converge to educate themselves about our constitutional liberties. The Coalition of Freedom grant will allow the National Constitution Center to become an inspiring convening platform for civil dialogue about the Constitution."
The grant comes as the center is poised to open an exhibition Monday featuring one of the 12 surviving original copies of the Bill of Rights, ratified on Dec. 15, 1791.
Gov. Corbett will be on hand for the opening, which highlights a day of events that include a public reading of the Bill of Rights with schoolchildren, a book festival with authors and scholars, reduced museum admission, and lesson plans for classrooms.
The copy that will be unveiled, one of those sent by President George Washington to the states in 1789, was acquired by the New York Public Library in 1896 but is thought to be the copy originally sent to Pennsylvania.
Thanks to an unusual agreement between the library and the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, the document will be exhibited on a rotating basis in both New York and Pennsylvania for the next century.
Also on display will be a first edition stone engraving of the Declaration of Independence and a copy from the first public printing of the Constitution. This marks the first time the center has displayed all three together.
The exhibition, in the new George H.W. Bush Gallery, will be up until 2017.