Former Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security and Former Governor of Pennsylvania
The annual Constitution Day Address was established by The Clarke Forum for Contemporary Issues in 1995. Each year a prominent public figure is invited to speak at Dickinson College on contemporary issues as they relate to the constitution.
A reception will follow the lecture from 6:30 p.m. – 8:00 p.m. in the Social Hall of the Holland Union Building.
Letter of invitation or Dickinson ID required.
“Constitution and Citizenship Day” is normally celebrated every September 17, the day that the United States Constitution was ratified in 1787. It is intended to commemorate the signing of the Constitution and celebrate the founding ideals of the United States. The idea for Constitution Day began in 1939, when newspaper publisher William Randolph Hearst advocated for the creation of a holiday to celebrate citizenship. In 1940, the United States Senate passed a resolution to designate the third Sunday in May as “I am an American Day.” In 1952, President Harry Truman changed the name of the holiday to “Citizenship Day” and moved the date to September 17. A 2004 amendment by Senator Robert Byrd of West Virginia changed the holiday’s name to “Constitution and Citizenship Day,” and also mandated that all publicly funded educational institutions educate students about the history of the Constitution.
The Winfield C. Cook Constitution Day Address
The annual address is endowed through the generosity of Winfield C. Cook, former Dickinson Trustee. Each year The Clarke Forum invites a prominent public figure to campus to speak on a contemporary issue related to the Constitution. The event celebrates the United States Constitution at the same time that it commemorates Dickinson’s connection to it. Benjamin Rush, a signer of the Declaration of Independence, founded the College, which was chartered in 1783, just days after the conclusion of the American Revolution. The College was named after John Dickinson, one of the 39 men who signed the new Constitution at the Philadelphia Convention in 1787 and who fought for its ratification under the pen name of Fabius. Previous Constitution Day speakers include Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist, Judge Marjorie O. Rendell, Kenneth Starr, Mary Jo White, Nadine Strossen, and Geoffrey Stone.
Biography (provided by the speaker)
Following the tragic events of September 11th, 2001, Thomas J. Ridge became the nation’s first Assistant to the President for Homeland Security and later the country’s first Secretary of Homeland Security, a fourth call to public service for the former soldier, congressman and governor of Pennsylvania. During his tenure, Secretary Ridge’s leadership and vision were instrumental in creating a border-centric agency that developed and coordinated a comprehensive national strategy to strengthen protections against terrorist threats and attacks in the United States.
Before that service, Secretary Ridge was twice elected governor of Pennsylvania. His aggressive technology strategy helped fuel the state’s advances in economic development, job growth, education, health care and environmental protection.
Born in Pittsburgh’s Steel Valley, Secretary Ridge was raised in a working-class family. He later earned a scholarship to Harvard, graduating with honors in 1967. After his first year at The Dickinson School of Law, he was drafted into the U.S. Army, where he served as an infantry staff sergeant in Vietnam, earning the Bronze Star for Valor, the Combat Infantry Badge and the Vietnamese Cross of Gallantry. After returning to Pennsylvania and to Dickinson, he earned his law degree and, later, became one of the first Vietnam combat veterans elected to the U.S. House of Representatives, where he served six terms.
Secretary Ridge now serves as the president and CEO of Ridge Global, an international strategic advisory firm, headquartered in Washington, DC. He also serves on public and private boards, including the Institute for Defense Analyses and the Center for the Study of the Presidency and Congress, and is currently the chairman of the National Organization on Disability and national co-chairman of the Flight 93 Memorial Fundraising Campaign.