Lodi was treated to an intelligent and bright look at the leaders of the Constitutional Convention of 1787 by Dr. Richard Beeman, the John Walsh Centennial Professor of History at the University of Pennsylvania.
His talk on Wednesday at the Lodi Public Library detailed the roles of Founding Fathers George Washington, James Madison, Roger Sherman, Benjamin Franklin and several other key men who came together to draft the most important document in American history.
"The success of this convention was far from inevitable or ordained. It was, in fact, improbable," he said.
The scholar with a smart bow-tie became a political junkie at age 10. He remembers dropping his surfboard on a Southern California beach to run inside and watch the 1952 Republican and Democratic conventions. From there, he became obsessed with the history of American politics, especially the Constitution. Beeman keeps a miniature edition of the Constitution in his jacket pocket.
"If you read the words, it feels like a boring document with no effect on the people. But it really matters," he said.
Beeman has appeared twice on "The Daily Show with Jon Stewart," and calls both occasions the most terrifying moments of his life.
"I had an out-of-body experience on stage, and I had no recollection of what I said," he said. He was thankful to have avoided public humiliation, he added.
He hasn't been able to handle the Constitution itself, locked as it is in titanium-lined glass in the National Archives. But a series of earlier drafts of the document by delegate James Wilson are stored in the Philadelphia vaults of the Historical Society of Pennsylvania. Beeman has had access to these documents, and prefers them to the finished piece.
"With these, I can see the process as it came together," he said.
Contact reporter Sara Jane Pohlman at firstname.lastname@example.org.