September 17 is designated by federal statute as Constitution Day in commemoration of the official signing of the document at the close of the Philadelphia Convention in 1787. The law further mandates that all colleges and universities receiving federal funds must observe this day by holding an educational program or event focused on the Constitution.
There is, of course, special reason for us at the University of Virginia to take this charge seriously. James Madison — the co-founder of this institution along with Thomas Jefferson, and the university’s first rector — is widely considered to be the “father” of the Constitution. Madison designed the first working plan submitted at the Constitutional Convention (the Virginia Plan), played a leading role throughout the whole summer in the debates, kept a record of the proceedings of the convention (“Madison’s Notes”) and wrote some of the greatest explanatory commentaries on the Constitution in The Federalist Papers.