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Insights for teachers to continue the conversation.

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Once considered the great American contribution to constitutional government鈥攇overnance by our own consent through elected, representative lawmakers鈥擟ongress is now the most disliked part of our political system. If we understand how Congress works we might better understand how to make representative government work in the 21st century.

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An online resource guide at Library of Congress,聽U.S. Presidential Inaugurations:聽鈥淚 Do Solemnly Swear鈥,鈥澛爏howcases the development of the inauguration day ceremonies. For each president, library staff have collected primary materials illustrating what made his inauguration unique. There are drafts of inaugural addresses, descriptions of the ceremonies written by attendees (sometimes by the president himself), and a wide variety of memorabilia, including ceremony tickets and programs, prints, photographs and even sheet music. Each entry also includes a list of historical 鈥榝irsts,鈥 along with factoids like which Bible the president was sworn in on, the number of inaugural balls held, and so on. A particularly interesting set of documents illustrates the very first presidential inauguration ceremonies, those for George Washington.

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On May 26, 1924, President Calvin Coolidge signed the Johnson-Reed Act, the first federal law in American history designed to establish permanent, comprehensive restrictions on immigration.聽 It came at the end of a long, contentious process that debated the nature of American citizenship and identity along with the perceived merits and hazards of mass immigration.聽 The law is rightly regarded as one of the triumphs of American nativism and a pivotal moment in the history of U.S. immigration policy.