The Constitution EXPLAINED

Welcome to "The Constitution EXPLAINED"! This series of 35 videos was created by the Center for Civic Education in partnership with iCivics and constitutional scholar Linda R. Monk, JD, to explain key aspects of the U.S. Constitution in everyday language and make our nation's founding document accessible to everyone. Select a topic from the dropdown menu below or simply scroll down and explore!

You can also view our virtual launch event featuring constitutional scholar Linda R. Monk, Julie Silverbrook of iCivics, Christopher R. Riano of the Center for Civic Education, and moderator and award-winning civics teacher Shelina Warren.

"The Constitution EXPLAINED" was made possible by the generous support of Kenneth C. Griffin.


The Constitution EXPLAINED

About the Constitution

We the People

The Preamble to the Constitution is the mission statement of the United States government. In just one sentence, the Preamble expresses the source of the Constitution’s power and summarizes its goals.

Constitutional Convention

The Constitution was created by a convention that met in Philadelphia in May 1787 to amend the Articles of Confederation, the nation’s first constitution.

Foundations of the Constitution

The structure of the Constitution is built on three key principles: federalism, separation of powers, and checks and balances.



The Three Branches of Government

The People's Branch

Article I of the Constitution lays out the structure of the legislative branch, the branch that makes the laws. It also dictates how members of the House of Representatives are elected, and the 17th Amendment changed the process of electing senators.

The Dos and Don'ts of Congress

Article I of the Constitution grants powers to Congress and also sets limitations.

Who Chooses the President?

Article II of the Constitution creates the office of the president of the United States (POTUS), determines how they are selected, and states the oath of office where they swear to “preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution of the United States.” The 12th Amendment changed how the vice president is selected.

Faithfully Execute

Article II of the Constitution gives powers to the president with the responsibility to “take care that the laws be faithfully executed,” including the most important – the Constitution itself.

The Presidency Changes

The 20th, 22nd, and 25th Amendments changed the office of the president.

The Least Dangerous Branch

Article III of the Constitution established judicial power – including judicial review – and life tenure for judges. Alexander Hamilton believed the judiciary would be "the least dangerous branch" of U.S. government.



Other Articles of the Constitution

Full Faith and Credit

Article IV of the Constitution regulates the relationships between the states.

The Supreme Law of the Land

The Supremacy Clause in Article VI makes federal law “the supreme law of the land” over state law.



Amendments and Ratification

The Secret Sauce

Article V allows for peaceful change through constitutional amendments. The Twenty-Seventh Amendment, proposed in 1789 and ratified in 1992, is the last Amendment to the Constitution—so far.


In order to officially become law, the Constitution had to be ratified, or approved, by the states.



The Bill of Rights

Freedom of Religion

The First Amendment protects freedom of religion by preventing an established or official faith and supporting free exercise of religion.

Freedom of Expression

The First Amendment protects freedom of speech and of the press to help Americans govern themselves.

Freedom of Assembly and Petition

The First Amendment protects the people's freedoms to gather and to petition the government.

To Keep and Bear Arms

The Second Amendment protects the right to keep and bear arms.

My Home is My Castle

The Third and Fourth Amendments protect privacy in the home.

Due Process of Law

Due process of law under the Fifth Amendment requires fair rules in the legal system.

Presumed Innocent

Due process of law under the Fifth Amendment helps protect fairness in the criminal justice system.

The Right to a Fair Trial

The Sixth and Seventh Amendments protect many of the rights needed to have a fair trial.

Cruel and Unusual

The Eighth Amendment limits unjust and inhumane punishments for crimes.

Unlisted Rights

The Ninth Amendment protects rights that are not specifically listed in the Bill of Rights.

States' Rights

The 10th and 11th Amendments protect the powers of the states.



Reconstruction Amendments

Abolishing Slavery

The 13th Amendment abolished slavery in the United States.

Defining Citizenship

The 14th Amendment defined citizenship in the Constitution.

Expanding the Bill of Rights

The 14th Amendment nationalized the Bill of Rights.

Equal Protection of the Laws

The 14th Amendment applies equal protection of the law.

Votes for All Men

The 15th Amendment prohibited discrimination in voting based on race.



Other Amendments to the Constitution

The Income Tax

The 16th Amendment made income taxes an official part of the Constitution.

Prohibition and Repeal

The 18th and 21st Amendments regulated the production, sale, and transportation of alcohol in the United States.

Votes for Women

The 19th Amendment protected the right to vote for women nationwide.

Votes for D.C.

The 23rd Amendment allowed citizens in the nation’s capital to vote for president.

No Tax on Voting

The 24th Amendment banned poll taxes in federal elections.

Votes for Young People

The 26th Amendment protected the right to vote for citizens between the ages of 18 to 21.

The Constitution EXPLAINED Playlist

We hope you've enjoyed the "Constitution EXPLAINED" series from the Center for Civic Education and iCivics. Feel free to check out our YouTube playlist for a playable list of all episodes in the series.

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