Popular. Purple. Pocket-sized.

Donors help put the Constitution in Madison’s hands again

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EDITOR'S NOTE: Now through June 21, 2024, anyone can get a copy — and send one to a friend — by making a generous gift to the Madison Vision Fund through https://dukesfunder.jmu.edu/usa.

Original story: Students receive Constitutions at Orientation

Those popular, purple, pocket-sized U.S. Constitutions are back on campus, distributed to first-year students during Orientation in August.

Purple pocket Constitution books

Emblazoned in JMU colors, the books feature a foreword from university President Jonathan R. Alger, a constitutional scholar. They include the full text of the Constitution and all 27 amendments, plus the Declaration of Independence. 

“These Constitutions are an important and appropriate welcome to new students from the university named for the Father of the Constitution,” Alger said. 

President Alger holds up a purple Constitution book.

Alger considered them so important that he tapped Madison Vision Fund donations to help underwrite the cost of reprinting the books. Last year, donors made almost 2,500 gifts to the Madison Vision Fund, which is used for urgent needs, new ideas and life-changing opportunities.

Students sit together and read Constitution books.

The books are yet another nonpartisan effort intended to further civic engagement at JMU and advance the legacy of James Madison.

JMU is a recognized leader in higher education for shining a light on the role of universities in furthering civic education and engagement, welcoming all viewpoints, and encouraging civil discourse. In addition to the president’s advocacy and scholarship, the university is home to programs and initiatives like the Madison Vision Series, Constitution Day and the James Madison Center for Civic Engagement. The center educates and inspires people to address public issues for the common good.

A woman hands out pocket Constitution books to students.

The Constitutions made their JMU debut during the summer of 2022. Campus and social media buzzed at their arrival. Students in the General Education Program’s political science, history and Justice Studies courses were the first to receive them. JMU’s James Madison Center for Civic Engagement continues to make them available at events throughout the academic year.

JMU could be starting a trend. When Alger sent copies of JMU’s Constitution to other college presidents, the College of William and Mary decided to follow JMU’s lead by making Constitutions — green and gold, of course — available to its students.

Students smile and read Constitution books.

“The Constitution inspired countless democracies around the world and continues to inspire us as we seek to form a ‘more perfect Union,’” said David C. Kirkpatrick, director of the Madison Center and Alger’s chief of staff.

Student hold up Constitution books for the camera.

The idea of giving students hard-bound keepsake editions of the Constitution first came from the late Lynn Z. Lang (’64) and Jeffrey M. Lang, who approached Alger about furthering civic engagement on campus. “Might we find a way to get them to give the Constitution a home on their bookshelves?” they asked. Alger agreed, and the Langs then committed a generous gift to fund the original printing.

“This little copy of the Constitution will give JMU students the chance to count our democratic system a familiar acquaintance … that will serve them and the country well throughout their lives,” said Lynn Lang, who was a lifelong educator.

Jeff Lang, a former Washington attorney who specialized in international trade law, has carried a small Constitution in his breast pocket for most of his life. 

Students looks at Constitution books.

Students hold up Constitution books for the camera.

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Published: Thursday, September 14, 2023

Last Updated: Thursday, April 25, 2024

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