Constitution Day

CONSTITUTION WEEK CELEBRATES AMERICA’S PAST AND FUTURE

by Sam Johnson

In remembrance of the signing of the Constitution and in recognition of the Americans who strive to uphold the duties and responsibilities of citizenship, the Congress, by joint resolution of February 29, 1952 (36 U.S.C. 106), designated September 17 as "Constitution Day and Citizenship Day," and by joint resolution of August 2, 1956 (36 U.S.C. 108), requested that the President proclaim the week beginning September 17 and ending September 23 of each year as "Constitution Week."
-- Presidential Proclamation

     Each year, September 17th is designated by Presidential proclamation as “CONSTITUTION DAY and CITIZENSHIP DAY.” The period of time from September 17-23 is considered “CONSTITUTION WEEK.”
     The intent of this resolution by Congress is to use the week as a sort of commemoration devoted to the study and consideration of the events that led to the framing of the U.S. Constitution, as well as a time to reflect on the actual meaning of this extraordinary document.
     In a way, it’s an opportunity to celebrate our past as well as our future.
    
We celebrate our past when we take ti
me to read this document and recognize the remarkable genius of the men who constructed this charter that gave birth to our nation and set down the framework by which we would be governed.
   
We celebrate our past as we reflect upon this document that requires a new balance of power in participatory democracy previously unheard of anywhere in the world.
   

Constitution Week Links

National Endowment for the Humanities
Constitution Day Resources

http://edsitement.neh.gov/ConstitutionDay/constitution_index2.html

The National Archives
Observing and Teaching About Constitution Day
http://www.archives.gov/education/lessons/constitution-day/

Federal Judiciary Administrative Office United State Courts
Official Constitution Week Theme: "Jury Service"
http://www.uscourts.gov/EducationalResources/ConstitutionResources/ConstitutionDay.aspx

National Constitution Center
http://www.constitutioncenter.org/ncc_progs_Constitution_Day.aspx

Constitution Day at ConstitutionFacts.Com
Oak Hill Publishing Co.
http://www.constitutionday.cc/
We celebrate our past as we read the Bill of Rights attached to this document, that guarantees the basic rights and freedoms that allow us to determine our own destinies -- among them the right to speak, read, write, worship, move about and live as we choose -- as long as we do so within the established laws, and don’t interfere with the right of other citizens to do the same.
    
And although this document, which is the oldest continuously functioning governmental charter in the world, has often been called into question as to whether it can survive the complex problems and technology of the time and continue to be an adequate instrument for our guidance into the 21st century, it has nevertheless withstood the tests of time and has served us admirably.
    
It fact, it has been the ability of the Constitution to guide us in contemporary times that makes it possible for us to celebrate our future as well as our past, for the Constitution is just as vital today as it was when signed on September 17, 1787.
    
In their attempt to “create a more perfect union,” the framers of the Constitution realized the need for flexibility and change in the document if it was to be a lasting one. They knew their charter was less than perfect, and that if it was to serve as a long-lasting guide for government, it would have to be allowed to flex, to evolve, to undergo change just as the times and circumstances would surely change.

     To provide for this, the framers included Article Five which allows the Constitution to be amended. It is this amendment process that has helped keep the Constitution a viable document over these 223 years, as the amendments themselves clearly demonstrate.
    
For example, after the Civil War the 13th Amendment was added in 1865, finally prohibiting slavery. In 1870 the 15th Amendment prohibited citizens from being denied the right to vote because of race, and in 1920 the 19th Amendment passed, giving women the right to vote. The 21s
t Amendment repealed the prohibition established in the 18th Amendment, and in 1971, the 26th Amendment gave 18-year olds the right to vote. Do you know what the most recent Amendment is?
    
But the amendment process is not the only thing that keeps our Constitution alive and up to date. The Supreme Court plays a seminal role in the process by constantly interpreting, defining, redefining, and reinterpreting the Constitution through cases it hears and passes judgments on.
    
And it is this constant re-evaluation of the Constitution by the Supreme Court that keeps it current, viable, and able to safeguard our rights and future welfare.
    
Cases such as Dred Scott vs. Sandford in 1857 illustrates this point. Scott, a former slave who had been taken to a free state then later sold again into slavery sued for his freedom. The case paved the way for the 14th Amendment.
    
Or the case of Brown vs. Board of Education of Topeka in 1954 which made it possible for black students to attend the nearest public school even though these schools had been designated as “white school” for use by “white students only.” The court’s decision effectively brought a legal end to the era of discriminatory practices by the false claim of “separate but equal.”
    
Or the case of Gideon vs. Wainwright in 1963 in which Gideon was arrested, accused, and tried for petty theft, without the assistance of a lawyer. The case went to the Supreme court which found in favor of Gideon. The outcome of that case helped guarantee the rights of all U.S. citizens to a fair trial with the assistance of legal counsel. As a result, Gideon was retried, this time with legal counsel, and was acquitted of all charges.
    
Or the Miranda vs. Arizona case of 1966 which helped restrict brutal police interrogations and provided that anyone being arrested be “read their rights.”

     We celebrate a “living Constitution” today, one that has longevity, because it is guided by the people it protects, and grows stronger as people use it to assert and defend their rights.
    
Admittedly, our nation and government are not perfect. But it is the Constitution that allows us, WE THE PEOPLE, to form a more perfect union and attempt to make it better.
    
It is our Constitution that allows us to establish justice, insure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general welfare, and secure the blessings of liberty, not just for ourselves, but for our posterity as well.
    
This is why I say, as we celebrate the meaning of our Constitution this week, we are celebrating not just our past, but our future as well.


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