Former U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Connor returned to the National Constitution Center on Friday to commemorate the 224th anniversary of the document's signing and promote the importance of civics education in a ceremony that was far less dramatic than her first appearance there eight years ago.
At the center just across the street from Independence Hall, the nation's first female Supreme Court justice joined a group of high school students as they recited the preamble and cheerleaders performed. Saturday is Constitution Day, which marks the anniversary of the signing in Philadelphia.
After the ceremony, O'Connor touted a web-based program called iCivics, which uses games to promote education in government. She lamented new research showing that only 7 percent of eighth-graders know the three branches of government.
"This knowledge, sadly, is not handed down in the gene pool," O'Connor said at a news conference, noting that parents and schools need to do more to emphasize civics education. "We need to reverse the decline of civics knowledge nationwide."
"It seems to me we have a lot to do," she said, bemoaning the fact that many states are abandoning efforts to make civics a requirement.
It was a relatively mishap-free trip for O'Connor, unlike the experience she had when the building was dedicated. On July 4th, 2003, O'Connor narrowly escaped injury when a giant frame collapsed while she was attending the opening.
The 650-pound frame toppled in the final moments of the building's dedication ceremony, slightly injuring five people and narrowly missing O'Connor, the guest of honor. Investigators later determined that missing bolts and improperly attached ribbons were to blame for the collapse.
O'Connor announced her plans to retire form the court in 2005 and was later replaced by Samuel A. Alito Jr.