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Editorial: Consitution Day celebrates our history

Last Modified: Sunday, September 15, 2013 10:46 PM

Tomorrow, Sept. 17, is Constitution Day, a day set aside by Congress to encourage all Americans to remember the document that is the underpinning of our nation’s freedom and liberty. Congress also made the whole week of Sept. 17-23, Constitution Week.

The origins of the Constitution day and week holiday can be traced back to 1911 when Iowa schools recognized Constitution Day. Then, in 1917, the Sons of the American Revolution (SAR) were inspired to form a distinguished committee, which included future President Calvin Coolidge, John D. Rockefeller and General John Pershing, to promote Constitution Day.

And, not by coincidence, Sept. 17 is also Citizenship Day. In 1952, Congress authorized the president — Harry Truman at that time — to issue an annual proclamation of Citizenship Day to recall that the day is the anniversary of the signing of the Constitution in 1787. Then, in 1955, the Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR) petitioned Congress to combine both for a Constitution and Citizenship Week from Sept. 17-23.

The two, the Constitution and citizenship, must go together. Without good citizenship, the Constitution is just an old piece of parchment, ignored and taken for granted. Citizenship doesn’t mean just the privileges and entitlements of being an American citizen. It also means the carrying out the responsibilities and duties of being a good citizen.

First, every citizen should educate himself and herself about American history. We must know our history if we want to understand the meaning and importance of the Constitution. If you don’t know history, go to any public library or book store and get a good general history of the United States.

A good online source for the history of our nation and, particularly of the Constitution and other founding documents, is the National Archives web site, “The Charters of Freedom,” http://www.archives.gov/exhibits/charters/constitution.html. You can actually see the original document and, most importantly, read it. Don’t just take the word of self-serving politicians and judges, find out for yourself what the Constitution means, and what is allows and doesn’t allow.

Second, every citizen should take citizenship seriously by being an informed and educated voter. If you know your Constitution, you can then judge what every politician proposes do, by that benchmark of our liberty. Is the candidate promising things that aren’t authorized in the Constitution? If you get a chance, ask the candidate where in the Constitution his or her promise is authorized? Then, you’ll know if he or she is a friend or enemy of the Constitution.

To be a good citizen you must be protective of the Constitution. Don’t just look to government for what “goodies” it can give you. Be a defender of the Constitution by holding politicians to account by how well, or poorly, they adhere to the principles of that document.

Use this week, Sept. 17-23, to learn about, or brush up on the Constitution and the responsibilities of citizenship.

• • •

This editorial was written by a member of the American Press Editorial Board. Its content reflects the collaborative opinion of the Board, whose members include Bobby Dower, Jim Beam, Crystal Stevenson and Donna Price.

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