We the People: The Citizen and the Constitution


"We the People: The Citizen and the Constitution" is an educational program developed by the Center for Civic Education, a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization based in California. The program instructs students on the history and principles of American constitutional democracy. The primary goal of the program is to promote civic competence and responsibility among the nation’s elementary, middle, and secondary school students. The We the People program allows students to study the Constitution and the Bill of Rights in depth. What makes the program successful is the design of the instructional program, and its innovative culminating activity – the simulated Congressional hearing.    

The program exists in all 50 states, and the U.S. territories. These state programs impact thousands of teachers and students each year. Since 2003, The Robert H. Smith Center for the Constitution at James Madison's Montpelier has been proud to host the We the People program in Virginia and Washington, D.C. 


We the People Simulated Congressional Hearings

Simulated congressional hearings serve as the final assessment of the We the People program and provide an excellent opportunity for students to improve their public speaking – as well as their research and analytical skills – through demonstration and practical application of the knowledge learned through the curriculum.

Simulated congressional hearings also take on a competitive element. For classes at the middle and high school level, participants from each school can advance to regional and state level competitions. The high school champion class from each state is then invited to National Finals in Washington, D.C.

To find out more about We the People competitions in Virginia and Washington, D.C., click here: Hearings


Benefits of We the People

  • ™™We the People students are more likely to agree that keeping up with political affairs, influencing the political structure, developing a meaningful philosophy of life, becoming a community leader, and helping others in need are of strong importance. 
  • ™We the People students are more likely to vote, write to a public official, investigate compelling political issues, participate in lawful demonstrations, and boycott certain products or stores. 
  • The We the People program encourages students to become more than passive consumers in the current political landscape. The textbook content and the interactive nature of the program allow students the opportunity to develop the skills necessary to become informed an engaged citizens. ™

Professional Development for Teachers

Montpelier has received funds to help expand opportunities for teacher professional development across Virginia and D.C. for middle and high school teachers in civics and government.

The initiative, the James Madison Legacy Project, is part of a nationwide professional development program directed by the Center for Civic Education, a nonprofit educational organization that was recently awarded a federal grant under the U.S. Department of Education’s Supporting Effective Educator Development grant program. 


We the People News

Students from Maggie L. Walker Governor's School in Richmond represented Virginia at the 2016 We the People National Finals. The team was coached by Samuel Ulmschneider, himself an alum of the We the People program at Maggie Walker. 
They blew away the judges, and after a final round of competing in a congressional hearing room on Capitol Hill in DC, they were awarded 5th place out of 54 teams from across the nation! We couldn't be more proud of those students and all of the hard work they put into the program. 
Students from Rachel Carson Middle School competed at the 2016 We the People Invitational. They were awarded 1st place out of 12 teams from across the U.S. We are so proud of them, and we take heart in their enthusiasm for the Constitution and Bill of Rights. 

For More Information:

If you are interested in knowing more about the We the People program or the competition, please contact Emily Voss, the Virginia and Washington D.C. We the People Coordinator at evoss@montpelier.org or call 540-308-2063. 


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The James Madison Legacy Project