Focus On Philadelphia Philadelphia - Organizations National Constitution Center, Opening To Rave Reviews, Meets Its $185 Million Capital Campaign Goal

Thursday, July 1, 2004 - 01:00

Editor:Would you briefly tell us again what the National Constitution Center is all about?

Reed:The National Constitution Center ("Center") was created by an Act of Congress to help commemorate the 200th anniversary of the signing of our Constitution and is a state-of-the-art museum and educational center dedicated to a compelling need to educate our citizens about the Constitution and the tremendous impact it has had on all our lives.Every American, especially young Americans, must be better informed about the importance of our Constitution and the rights and liberties secured by it, which were fought for with such great courage and sacrifice more than 225 years ago and have been fought for many times since then.That is the only way that they can appreciate the significant impact these rights and liberties have had, and continue to have, on their lives and the need, the critical need, to preserve them for future generations.That is precisely what the Center does; that is its mandate.

Editor:What has been the reaction to the National Constitution Center since it opened?

Reed:It could not have been better!The Center, which is on Independence Mall opposite Independence Hall, where the Constitution was written and signed some 217 years ago, opened on schedule on July 4, 2003.Since it opened, it has uniformly received the highest praise in the press (including, for example, The New York Times, The Washington Post and The Wall Street Journal) and from visitors from all around the country.What is especially gratifying is to visit the Center during the week when there are usually between 2,500 and 3,000 excited school children swarming around the Center.That is the way it should be and what the Center is all about.

One thing is clear: the Center's "dream team" of architects Pei Cobb Freed & Partners and exhibit designers Ralph Appelbaum Associates, has done its job very well.The Center seems to have succeeded in telling the Constitution's story in a way that is both informative and enjoyable for people of all, or at least most, ages and backgrounds.

Editor:I understand the Center has successfully completed its $185 million Capital Campaign.Would you please tell us about it.

Reed:I would be delighted.On April 15, 2004, the Center's Chairman John C. Bogle announced that the Center had not only reached its Capital Campaign goal of $185 million, but had exceeded it by nearly a quarter of a million dollars.More than 10,000 donors and charter members from across the country led to the Campaign's successful close on March 22, 2004.

Government support totaled $108 million and private contributions from the Center's trustees, other individuals, corporations, foundations, the legal profession, charter members and staff exceeded $77 million.All Capital Campaign donors who committed $10,000 or more to support the Center are "Founding Donors" and their names are permanently inscribed on the stone Founding Donors Wall in the Center's Grand Hall Lobby which was unveiled on May 19, 2004.

This very gratifying response is a well-deserved tribute to the Center.What it reflects is that once our citizens learned about the Center, many wished to support it and wished to take advantage of a unique, once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to be part of something very special that resonates across our entire life as a nation, past, present and future, and speaks most particularly not only to our generation but also to all of the generations to come.

Editor:Please describe the support the Center has received from the legal profession.

Reed:Much of my time has been spent seeking the support of the legal profession.It started in 1998 when Morgan, Lewis & Bockius, the law firm with which I spent my entire legal career, became the Center's Founding Legal Sponsor to help commemorate the 125th anniversary of its founding just a few blocks from the Center.

Morgan Lewis was shortly followed by 16 other large law firms in Philadelphia who led the way for the legal profession by committing an amount at least equal to the billable hourly rate for all their attorneys.It was known as the "Law Firm Power of an Hour Initiative" and raised about $1.3 million for the Center.The names of those firms are on a special plaque on the right of the entrance to the Center.They are also inscribed on the Founding Donors Wall in the Center's Grand Lobby.

Many lawyers have answered the call to support the Center by becoming individual Power of an Hour Sponsors or - better still - Founding Donors.The generosity of those Founding Donors is also recognized on the Founding Donors Wall.The same is true for various legal organizations such as:

The Philadelphia Bar Association

Pennsylvania Bar Association

American College of Trial Lawyers

American Board of Trial Advocates

Toward the end of the Campaign more than 20 of the most prominent and best-known law firms in the country - including firms in Boston, Chicago, Houston, New York and Washington - became part of the Center's founding family by becoming Founding Donors under the Law Firm Founding Donor Initiative.The first of those firms to step forward were Sidley Austin Brown & Wood LLP and Mayer, Brown, Rowe & Maw LLP, and they set a marvelous example for other firms to follow.The firms participating in this Initiative committed more than $650,000 to the Center, and we are grateful to all of them because they were critical to the Center's not only meeting but exceeding its Campaign goal.

I must add that it is only fitting that the legal profession support the National Constitution Center.After all, the Constitution is the very basis of the laws with which all lawyers must work.Moreover, 35 of the 55 dedicated men who worked so hard that very hot summer in 1787 to write the Constitution - the "Miracle at Philadelphia" - were trained in the law.That is - indeed - an inspiring legacy for the legal profession to follow.And it has - and we hope it will follow that legacy even more so in the future.

Editor:Is the Center still seeking support from the legal profession?

Reed:Most definitely.For example, the Center hopes that many lawyers, as well as many other citizens, will become members of its "1787 Society," the Center's premier annual giving society that will provide the support that is essential for the Center to continue to deliver world-class educational programs and maintain the state-of-the-art museum that has become our newest national treasure.

In addition, there will be many opportunities to help sponsor, as well as participate in, a wide variety of seminars and other programs on constitutional and other important and timely topics both at the Center and other locations around the country.There have already been a number of such programs.For example, on April 29, 2004, the American Bar Association and the Center presented an outstanding Fred Friendly Seminar on "50 Years After Brown; The Continuing Challenge."More recently, noted author Tom Clancy and General Tony Zinni spoke at the Center about their new book "Battle Ready," and Cokie Roberts, the well-known and very popular television commentator, had a "constitutional conversation" there about her new book "Founding Mothers:The Women Who Raised Our Nation."

I should also mention that law firms should consider having firm meetings or other functions at the Center.It is very appealing for those purposes.Morgan, Lewis & Bockius had its firm-wide partners' dinner at the Center last fall and it was extremely well received.More recently, Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom had a firm-wide partners' reception at the Center and its Executive Partner, Robert Sheehan, commented to me not only how well it worked out but also that many of his partners told him that they would return with their families.I received a similar comment from Stuart Stock, the Chairman of Covington & Burling, after some of his partners had the opportunity to "experience" the Center during a firm meeting in Philadelphia.Use of the Center for meetings and other functions has far exceeded expectations.

Editor:Is there anything you would like to add?

Reed: On a personal note, I consider it a great honor and a privilege to have been able to help, in a modest way and along with many others, the National Constitution Center become a reality.In addition, I feel a deep sense of satisfaction, now that it has opened, in being able to take my children and grandchildren there to experience it and to make a connection with our nation's distant but nonetheless living past - a connection which starts with the magnificently done and inspiring multimedia presentation "Freedom Rising."As a result of this great project coming to fruition, future generations are also going to be able to have this experience and make this connection.I will close with a plea.I urge everyone, and most particularly the members of the legal profession, to visit the National Constitution Center with their families as soon as possible.It is a must!They are certain to be very glad they did.

Editor's note: If you are interested in learning more about the National Constitution Center or supporting it in some way, we would urge you to contact the Center at 215-409-6743 or you would like to contact Mr. Reed, he can be reached at 215-963-5283 or am sure he would be pleased to hear from you.

Starting in our September 2000 issue of The Metropolitan Corporate Counsel and annually since then, we told our readers about the National Constitution Center, which was being constructed on Independence Mall in the historic part of Philadelphia and is dedicated to the United States Constitution - our most important legacy.TheCenter and the efforts being made to seek support for it, including efforts within the legal profession, were described by Alan L. Reed, a retired partner and former Chair of Morgan, Lewis & Bockius LLP and one of the lawyers leading those efforts.Mr. Reed previously reported in our December 2003 issue that the Center opened on July 4, 2003, to rave reviews from the press and visitors around the country.Since it has now been open for about a year, we thought it would be appropriate to have a final update on our newest national treasure, including a report on its $185 million Capital Campaign.Mr. Reed is a Vice Chairman of the Center and a Co-Chair of its Capital Campaign.He is still devoting much of his time to the Center.Morgan Lewis is the Founding Legal Sponsor of the Center.