BOZEMAN — Former U.S. Ambassador to China Max Baucus, former Montana Gov. Marc Racicot, former state Superintendent of Public Instruction Denise Juneau, 1972 Montana Constitutional Convention delegate Mae Nan Ellingson and longtime state political journalist Charles S. Johnson will gather at Montana State University on March 22 for a panel discussion to celebrate the 50th anniversary of Montana’s Constitutional Convention.
Moderators for the discussion will be bestselling author Sarah Vowell and John Adams, founder and editor-in-chief of Montana Free Press. The event, which is free and open to the public, is sponsored by Montana Free Press and Montana State University and will be held at 7:00 p.m. in Ballroom A of the Strand Union Building. For those who cannot attend in person, the event will be livestreamed by MSU on YouTube and recorded for later viewing online.
The event will feature the first-person accounts of Ellingson, who was the Constitutional Convention’s youngest delegate, as well as convention staffer Baucus and reporter Johnson. Adams and Vowell will also present new video interviews with the surviving convention delegates and staff. Racicot and Juneau will discuss the Montana Constitution’s legacy.
“The Montana Constitutional Convention of 1972 is one of the most consequential events in Montana’s history, and arguably the most inspiring,” Vowell said. “The 100 delegates, who arrived at our state Capitol from across Montana to frame a new future, shared a sense of purpose, a spirit of nonpartisan cooperation and a devotion to the public good that is worth remembering and celebrating in these quarrelsome times.”
Vowell and a team of five Montana Free Press journalists volunteered to film interviews with delegates, staffers and Johnson, who reported on the convention for the Associated Press.
“While documenting the framers’ reflections a half-century after the convention should prove useful to historians, legal scholars and journalists, we planned each interview to be accessible for any ordinary Montana citizen to enjoy, including high school and college students,” she said.
Adams, who has covered seven legislative sessions and three special sessions as a statehouse reporter, said he, too, is awed by what the delegates to the 1972 “ConCon” accomplished.
“This was an era of immense societal and cultural change in the United States, and Montana was on the leading edge of reforming state government in a way that empowered the public and restricted the influence of well-heeled special interests,” he said. “The results of that monumental effort are evident throughout our body politic today, and we are grateful for the opportunity to help to inform a new generation of Montanans about the remarkable bipartisan achievements of these selfless public servants.”
“How the people of Montana came together and agreed on a foundational document that explains and expounds for posterity how they are going to operate is a monumental accomplishment and an amazing piece of history,” said Waded Cruzado, MSU president. “I’m very proud Montana State University could be part of this effort to record and preserve these important interviews.”
MSU provided technical support for the interviews and is creating an archive for the video recordings and their transcripts in the Archives and Special Collections of the MSU Library. The collection will be publicly available through the MSU Library’s website after the March 22 live event.
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