Tag Archives: Citizenship Day

Constitution Day September 17 – Reasons and Resources

We the people are the rightful masters of both Congress and the courts, not to overthrow the Constitution but to overthrow the men who pervert the Constitution. Abraham Lincoln

Constitution Day, aka Citizenship Day, comes at a most propitious time this election season – a good time to reflect on the fundamentals of our shared and ongoing experiment in democracy. Constitution Day 2016, Saturday, September 17, marks the signing of the Constitution of the United States on this date in 1787. That hard-won document is dedicated to the citizens of the United States.

It is the custom that, if Constitution Day falls on Saturday, it is to be celebrated on a weekday before or after September 17 – no doubt because it falls to social studies teachers to teach the basics… Still, it seems to me that, because Constitution Day is on Saturday this year – and since Constitution question are implicit if not explicit in much the news and opinions – not to mention the conversation – of the day, an extra-curricular commemoration may be in order.

Here are some discussion — or teaching – prompts:

*https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GReu04iG0fs&feature=em-subs_digest  Great starting point

*http://blog.constitutioncenter.org/2016/09/10-essential-online-resources-for-constitution-day/ – Helpful list of links

http://news.usc.edu/107628/celebrate-constitution-day-2016-with-usc/ — Brief intro with links to specific portions of the Constitution

https://www.mnsu.edu/constitutionday/ – Minnesota take on the commemoration

*http://www.archives.gov/calendar/constitution-day/ – Comprehensive guide to resources, events throughout the nation, teaching and learning activities, relevant blogs, and more.

These troubled times challenge us to know and respect the Constitution of the United States, its founders and the role of every citizen to respect and to live by the the principles embodied in that historic document.   It really does matter.

The U.S. Constitution – Something worth thinking about

It is possible to read the history of this country as one long struggle to extend the liberties established in our Constitution to everyone in America.

Molly Ivins

Thus it is fitting that the evolution of Constitution Day has been a struggle to commemorate the formation and signing of the Constitution of the United States itself. Though the “official” signing of the Constitution (still a matter of historic discussion) was September 17, 1787, it was not until 217 years later, in 2004, that the U.S. Congress actually established September 17 as Constitution Day. In fact, Congress framed the date, not as a day to honor the signers, but as an occasion to “recognize all who, by coming of age or by naturalization, have become US citizens.”

And herein lies the tale of the evolution of Constitution Day – and Week. In the late 1930’s William Randolph Hearst, who bought ink by the barrel, advocated a day to celebrate US citizenship. In 1940 the Congress created “I Am an American Day” to be celebrated on the third Sunday in May. On February 29, 1952, President Harry Truman signed into law “Citizenship Day” which was a replacement for “I am an American Day.” A few years later, on August 2, 1956, Congress requested that the President proclaim the week beginning September 17 and ending September 23 as “Constitution Week.” And thus, in 2004 the day morphed into “Constitution Day and Citizenship Day”, passed by the U.S. Congress as what has become the incontrovertible legacy of Senator Robert C Byrd (D-WV).

The context in which Senator Byrd led the fight in Congress sets the stage. The nation was still reeling from 9/11 and the ensuing military action in the Middle East when Senator Byrd took to the Senate floor to propose a policy amendment to a hefty spending bill – a practice deemed highly inappropriate by his Senate colleagues. Byrd’s push for establishment of Constitution Day and Citizenship Day rose from deep conviction, as seen and heard in this clip: (http://blogs.rollcall.com/wgdb/constitution-day-a-byrd-legacy-video)

To ensure that his policy would be implemented Byrd included the provision that educational institutions that receive federal funding be required to teach about the Constitution or to conduct Constitution-related programs each year on September 17.

Over the past decade federal agencies, including the Library of Congress, the National Archives and Records Administration, the National Constitution Center among others have created some excellent online resources based on their unique collections and expertise

Focus of the Minnesota institutions’ Constitution Week programming is on students and teachers and on access to free online resources about the Constitution and the “long struggle to extend the liberties established in our Constitution to everyone in America.” Updated information can be found on the Constitution Week Twitter feed, #MNCONSTWEEK.

Constitution Week is also a good chance to check out “Today in Civil Liberties History,” (http://todayinclh.com ). Launched just last year by scholar, writer and civil libertarian Sam Walker (http://samuelwalker.net/bio/, this web-based calendar features civil liberties events for each day of the year. Entries range from free speech to reproductive rights to national security, racial justice, gender equity and more. The site also offers links to related resources, including relevant readings, videos, descriptions of historic sites and events

Today in Civil Liberties History affirms and confirms Molly Ivins’ comment. This post is intended to reach readers in time enough to put Constitution Day 2015 on the calendar for the classroom, the book club, the place of worship or other gathering place of those “who, by coming of age or by naturalization, have become US citizens” – and of those who struggle mightily to achieve that goal.





It’s Constitution Day – There’s an app for that too!

For more than 200 years the American public has struggled to comprehend the full meaning of the United States Constitution. As of today, September 17, 2014, there’s an app for that – also an e-book! And they’re both free.

The 39 delegates to the Constitutional Convention who signed the document on September 17, 1787, would undoubtedly rejoice as on Constitution Day (aka Citizenship Day) 2014 the Constitution and its advocates march proudly into the information age – app in hand.

The Center for Legislative Archives, home of the official records of the U.S. House of Representatives and Senate, has created Congress Creates the Bill a Rights, a free mobile app and eBook  available for download on iPad at the App Store. The ebook is available for download on the National Archives website and in iTunes and the iBookstore for iPad, iPhone and iPod Touch.

As we learned in Social Studies class the path to ratification of the Constitution was not fast track. You can retrace the state-by-state ratification process here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Timeline_of_drafting_and_ratification_of_the_United_States_Constitution

Constitution Day dates back to 1939 and the reign of newspaper magnate William Randolph Hearst who proposed the holiday to be known as “I am an American Day.” The holiday was first celebrated on the third Sunday in May, 1940, a day with special focus on new Americans. The US Immigration and Naturalization Service supported and promoted the holiday so that by 1944 the Hearst-sponsored 16 minute film by that name went viral. By the end of the decade the governors of all 48 states had proclaimed the national holiday.

The name change can be credited to Olga T. Weber, a Louisville, Ohio, resident who petitioned the leaders of her city to change the date to correspond with the anniversary of the signing of the Constitution. In 1953 President Eisenhower signed the law declaring Citizenship Day to be celebrated on September 17.

In more recent times Louise Leigh, an enthusiastic student of the Constitution, founded a nonprofit organization called Constitution Day, Inc. to encourage recognition of the national holiday. The combined Constitution/Citizenship Day was inaugurated in 2004 with the support of Senator Robert Byrd of Virginia who attached a supportive rider to an Omnibus Spending bill.

One condition of the law was that, on September 17 each year, the head of every federal agency will provide each employee with educational materials concerning the Constitution and that each education institution that receives federal funds will hold a program for students on Constitution Day.

With thanks to the founding fathers, to these committed Constitutionalists and the U.S. Congress, Happy Constitution Day to every American citizen, particularly the newest citizens of the Land of the Free.