Former CNN CEO commemorates Constitution Day

About 50 students and faculty attended GW’s Constitution Day tribute Tuesday featuring author Walter Isaacson discussing his book “Benjamin Franklin: An American Life.”

Isaacson, who was formerly the CEO and Chairman of CNN and managing editor for TIME Magazine, spoke about Benjamin Franklin’s transformation from a printer’s apprentice to a national leader. Isaacson now serves as president and CEO of the Aspen Institute, a non-partisan group that works to promote international dialogue.

Isaacson spoke about how Franklin’s personal influences can be seen in documents vital to the foundation of America.

“In the original (Declaration of Independence) you can see Franklin’s pen crossing out ‘sacred’ and substituting it with ‘self-evident’ so as not to tie the government to any particular religion,” Isaacson said during his presentation in the Marvin Center.

Congress passed a law two years ago requiring schools receiving federal funding to educate students about the Constitution on Constitution Day on or about Sept. 17, which is also Citizenship Day. The Constitution was signed on Sept. 17, 1787.

“When the notion of this event was first proposed, I was a bit skeptical . but with the passing of time I see it is appropriate, especially at this point when the Constitution is daily on the mind of Americans,” said University President Stephen Joel Trachtenberg in remarks at the event.

When asked what Franklin would think of the government today, Isaacson said that Franklin would be “appalled that we are using God to divide us.”

Senior Jelena Zupan said she skipped class to attend the event. “Every page was brilliant, so, yes, I skipped class to come and meet him,” she said, referring to Isaacson’s biography of Henry Kissinger.

Isaacson is currently writing a biography about Albert Einstein.

After the event, Isaacson signed books and spoke with attendees. Copies of the Constitution were also available, for free, to those interested.

“Part of the educational experience is being able to take advantage of the opportunities the University has to offer,” said graduate student David Johnston. “It takes time out of your day, but it is certainly worth the effort.”

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