"More James Madison, less Diana," Rosen promised, sitting in his subterranean office, a bust of his hero, Justice Louis D. Brandeis, placed on the table.
Rosen is a constitutional-law rock star, with degrees from Harvard, Oxford and Yale Law, and a 31-page resumé. Though he served as a planning adviser and as a visiting scholar in the center's first summer, Rosen is the first legal scholar to lead it.
To which you might ask, "What took the center so long?"
A former law professor at George Washington University and a Brookings Institute fellow, Rosen is the legal-affairs editor of the New Republic and a commentator on NPR. He views himself as a law scholar and journalist. The final week of Supreme Court rulings was Rosen's NBA and NHL championships. He was quoted everywhere.
Rosen can cite most of the Bill of Rights by heart and tends to get misty speaking about our Founding Fathers. "Much misunderstood," he said of Pennsylvania's James Wilson, one of the Supreme Court's first associate justices, while standing in the center's Signers' Hall as children climbed on Ben Franklin's lap.
Granted, Rosen needed directions finding the exhibit space, but he's been on the job only a month. He is living in Philadelphia during the week and commuting to his family home in Washington on the weekends.
"I've been told to raise a lot of money," he said, declining to give the set figure, "but find that's a pleasure when you're passionate about the work."
Next year, in time for the Constitution's 225th anniversary, the center will be home to the triumvirate of America's founding documents: the Constitution; an 1823 engraving of the Declaration of Independence, unveiled last week; and one of 12 surviving copies of the Bill of Rights, which is being restored. Rosen plans to display the documents in a more prominent position. The Constitution is now shielded from light in a corner, as though, he said, "it was in a bathroom."
He views the center as a museum of "We the People," an American town hall for national and international debate on constitutional law, and a center for civic education. He needs regional residents to embrace the center's core mission. Many people visit the airy, white-marble building for other organizations' events, its guise as a catering hall a strong revenue stream for many cultural institutions.
Rosen said the center will host "a vibrant series of evening programs and constitutional debates." With media partners, the center will also increase "virtual" visitors to its podcasts. In the new cultural world, both kinds of patrons matter.
"The Constitution is a conversation. The more I teach it, the less confident I am in my views and the more open I am to the views of others," he said.
Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg is scheduled to speak Sept. 6, four days before Hillary Rodham Clinton will receive the center's Liberty Medal from chairman Jeb Bush, representative of "our bipartisan efforts of which I am so proud."
Wonkery won't necessarily bring in the shorts-and-sneakers tourist crowd, the visitors who ask of an exhibit, "Where are the buttons?" But Rosen, a Bill of Rights cheerleader, promises true engagement.
"This is not a think tank, not a law library," he said. The center-produced Prohibition exhibit was a popular and scholarly hit, and the current 1968 show has garnered strong reviews.
Rosen promised, "We want energy and vitality attached to the center." Consistent leadership and vision will help, too.
Contact Karen Heller at 215-854-2586 or firstname.lastname@example.org, Follow her at @kheller on Twitter. Read the metro columnists blog, Blinq, at www.inquirer.com/blinq.