Each year for Presidents Day, the National Constitution Center teaches flocks of families, students and other visitors that come to learn about the history of the country’s Commander in Chief.
This year, though, the center is celebrating a new administration for the first time in eight years. And the Center says it’s ready for a surge in questions about President Donald Trump.
That’s expected with any new administration, Mark Kehres, the museum programs and training manager, said. He added that there were a lot of questions about Barack Obama’s presidency from visitors uncertain about him when he first took office.
“It’ll be interesting, we haven’t been in a circumstance like this since 2009,” he said. “We’ll have to go back and see what we did. It is going to be kind of a different vibe this time. It should be a lot of fun.”
So far this month, the center has seen an average of 213 visitors a day. But Merissa Blum, the Constitution Center’s communications manager, said last year’s Presidents Day drew a crowd of nearly 1,900.
Of course, Kehres hopes newly appointed chairman of the NCC board of trustees, Joe Biden, makes an appearance. He’s “keeping his fingers crossed.”
The staff expects a wide range of visitors and just as many topics of conversation. Many questions about Trump are anecdotal or based on visitors’ experience, learned in the classroom or in civic life, he said.
“And many of them are focusing conversations on some of the news coverage they’ve seen about him,” Kehres added, “Or they’ll ask about what he’s doing and how it relates to the Constitution.”
Any time there’s a current constitutional issue, Kehres said, the Constitution Center staff is prepared to talk about it. Much of his job, Kehres explained, is making sure the “educators” — museum staff who interact with visitors — are ready to help interpret and participate in conversations about it.
The constitution, while a physical document, he said, is more of an idea or concept.
“It’s important that our educators understand the constitution, how it’s been amended, the importance of the Supreme Court and how the court interprets the constitution,” he added.
While the center and its educators are nonpartisan, it’s not shying away from looking at the president’s actions through a critical lens. The National Constitution Center blog, Constitution Daily, is home to discussions like the constitutionality of Trump’s executive order on immigration and whether or not Neil Gorsuch should be confirmed to the Supreme Court.
Upcoming Town Hall programs, where experts speak and answer questions will also help visitors discuss some of Trump’s proposed policies. On Tuesday the center hosts, “Reshaping Policing for the 21st Century,” and next month, “The Future of the Affordable Care Act.”
This year, the Presidents Day activities and admission to the museum are free and built to educate visitors about many different facets of the office. A voting booth activity that teaches about the election process and the winner of the “presidential costume contest” will earn an annual family membership to the museum.
But Kehres said the staff won’t be focusing special programing or events dedicated to Trump this year. He wants guests to leave learning more about the history of presidents and the presidency.
“We’re working with [educators] to explore different ways to talk about Trump.”
Right now, their biggest concern is making sure they know the ins and outs of his role in the Constitution and the different hats he has to wear during his term.
“The current administration has been so active so far,” Kehres said. “And people want to know how it works because they feel like they have a personal stake in it.”