What if they read the Constitution and nobody showed up?

Televisions were set up Thursday in the lobby of the National Constitution Center in Philadelphia to catch every moment of the reading of the Constitution from the floor of the House of Representatives in Washington. But very few people came.

A full reading of the Constitution had never been done from the House floor, and–true to form–members of congress delayed the recitation to debate the language: should the original, or the amended version be read.

Then Representative Bob Goodlatte, a Republican from Virginia, called up one colleague at a time to each read a sentence from the Constitution, plus the Amendments. It took an hour and a half.

This was a moment the National Constitution Center was made for, but the lobby was more or less empty during the marathon reading. Visitors paused in front of the televisions only to check their cell phones or ask for the bathroom.

  • WHYY thanks our sponsors — become a WHYY sponsor

As the Center’s chief interpretive officer, Steve Frank’s job is to make the Constitution exciting. He says the spectacle shines attention on the Constitution’s text.

“I think if you take this in the spirit in which it is intended, it becomes interesting and fun,” said Frank.  “Something that’s unprecedented is something that grabs your attention.”

Frank says the reading may be political theater, but one that serves a civic purpose.

The marathon reading of the Constitution was recorded and will be used in future programs at the Constitution Center. Staff members have already floated the idea of Constitution Karaoke. Or, perhaps, Konstitution Karaoke.

WHYY is your source for fact-based, in-depth journalism and information. As a nonprofit organization, we rely on financial support from readers like you. Please give today.

Want a digest of WHYY’s programs, events & stories? Sign up for our weekly newsletter.

Together we can reach 100% of WHYY’s fiscal year goal