​The birthplace of the Constitution

National Constitution Center
National Constitution Center 04:34

The National Constitution Center in Philadelphia is close to Independence Hall, where the founders bitterly debated and eventually signed the Constitution. Correspondent Jan Crawford looks at how the Center shares that story, and the evolution of our government:

It was born in a time when the rest of the world was governed by kings and emperors. But our founders had a radical idea: they would create a government by the people with a Constitution that endures and protects us to this day.

Throughout our history, it is protest that brings change -- a revolutionary ideal, protected by the Constitution.

What do we want? Equality! When do we want it? Now!

"The fact that we as Americans have the obligation, we feel empowered to say that the government is encroaching on our rights, is a sign of the health and robustness of our Constitution," said Jeff Rosen, president and CEO of the National Constitution Center.

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The National Constitution Center in Philadelphia. CBS News

Forged over a tense summer in 1787, the Constitution survived and thrived for 229 years. It's the greatest document of human freedom ever created.

And the National Constitution Center in the heart of Philadelphia is where we come to understand.

"Justice Anthony Kennedy was here recently and he said, 'There at Independence Hall is where the Constitution was ratified, and the National Constitution Center on the other side of the mall is where Americans today work out what it means today," Rosen remarked.

Created by Congress as a non-partisan institution, the center teaches and inspires. In this polarized time, it reminds us of our nation's past struggles, and what always guided us, bringing us back together: the Constitution.

"What's going on now, the incredible debates we're having around this election and about the future of justice and equality in America, is a healthy and quintessentially American enterprise," Rosen said. "And the structure for that debate is the Constitution itself."

The center features historic documents, including an original copy of the Bill of Rights.

But it's more than a museum. It brings together conservatives and liberals to debate some of the most contentious issues of our time.

There's a live performance that tells the story of our fight for freedom ... interactive displays, where children imagine they really can be president and take the oath of office ... and even a Constitutional VIP room.

At Signers Hall, you can mingle with the men who signed the document -- 42 life-sized statues. It's the center's most popular exhibit, especially with kids.

"First they want to see Hamilton, 'cause he's the rap star," said Rosen. "Then they want to see Ben Franklin and sit on his lap. They see George Washington, they see how tall he is. And they feel like American history belongs to them."

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Correspondent Jaw Crawford meets Ben Franklin at the National Constitution Center. CBS News

But walking around this room, in these divisive times, you have to wonder what the founders would think of us.

"These men in this room were familiar with bitter, polarizing disagreements over ideas," Rosen said. "But these men were also able to compromise, and that spirit of compromise enabled them to create this great document of human freedom."

That document remains the framework that unites us today and provides the path forward.

Rosen said the document they created empowered us: "But unless we rise to the occasion through democratic self-education and learning about the Constitution, then their great experiment will not survive. But they were optimistic that it would survive, 'cause they had faith in us. They had faith in the citizens, and they had faith in constitutional education."

And that is why this center is so important: You see the vision, just how incredible it was, what they created ... and how it's up to us to keep it.