We the People

The Progressive Values of the U.S. Constitution

The Center for American Progress held a two-day conference in Washington, D.C., on October 11–12, 2011, to focus on the core progressive values and ideals that have animated progress in our country since our founding. It brought together thought leaders and policymakers to define and promote a progressive vision of American exceptionalism—one grounded in freedom and equality, empathy and compassion, collective action, and shared sacrifice for common purposes.

Legal Progress’s panel on the Constitution, “We the People,” examined the idea that the core values enshrined in the U.S. Constitution are the same values that have made America exceptional since its founding. These values—expanding liberty, opportunity, and equality for all Americans in the constant pursuit of creating a more perfect union—have guided America’s social and economic progress over the last 224 years. Indeed, the Constitution is what made it possible for the American idea to develop and thrive. In order to understand what American exceptionalism means in the 21st century, it is necessary to appreciate how the Constitution and its framers intended for these progressive values to permeate American life and to make possible the freedom we cherish ourselves and seek for others around the world.

The following panelists are featured in this video:

  • Akhil Amar, professor of law and political science, Yale University
  • Rick Beeman, professor of history, University of Pennsylvania
  • Jeff Shesol, historian and author, Supreme Power: Franklin Roosevelt vs. The Supreme Court
  • Neera Tanden, President, Center for American Progress

For more on Legal Progress, please see its project page.