‘We the people’: Sept. 17-23 marks annual Constitution Week

The preamble to the United State Constitution begins with "We the People."

We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.

The Conventions of a number of the States having at the time of their adopting the Constitution, expressed a desire, in order to prevent misconstruction or abuse of its powers, that further declaratory and restrictive clauses should be added: And as extending the ground of public confidence in the Government, will best insure the beneficent ends of its institution.

Resolved by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America, in Congress assembled, two thirds of both Houses concurring, that the following Articles be proposed to the Legislatures of the several States, as Amendments to the Constitution of the United States, all or any of which Articles, when ratified by three fourths of the said Legislatures, to be valid to all intents and purposes, as part of the said Constitution; viz.:

Articles in addition to, and Amendment of the Constitution of the United States of America, proposed by Congress, and ratified by the Legislatures of the several States, pursuant to the fifth Article of the original Constitution. 

Amendment i

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

 

There are two documents central to the formation of the United States—the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution. Each September, Constitution Week commemorates the formation and signing of the latter. It kicks off on Sept. 17, a Thursday this year, on what is known as Constitution Day.

This Sept. 17 marks the 233rd anniversary of the signing of the United States Constitution. On that day in 1787, 39 delegates gathered at Independence Hall in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania to formally endorse the Constitution, the product of the four-month-long Constitutional Convention.

Constitution Week has been observed since 1955, initiated by the Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR), a lineage-based membership service organization for women who are directly descended from a person involved in efforts towards American independence during the Revolutionary War. The organization has approximately 185,000 members nationwide and chapters across the country, including the St. Croix River Valley chapter in Stillwater and the Harriet G. Walker chapter in Shoreview.

Constitution Week is largely the culmination of the advocacy efforts on the part of the DAR. In the mid-1950s, DAR members petitioned Congress to dedicate a week of each year to commemorate the Constitution, and on Aug. 2, 1956, President Dwight D. Eisenhower signed the congressional resolution into law. In 2002, President George W. Bush officially declared the inception of Constitution Week, setting aside Sept. 17-23 each year.

DAR members nationwide remain strong advocates for the celebration of Constitution Week to this day. According to the organization, the purpose of the annual observance is to “emphasize citizens’ responsibilities for protecting and defending the Constitution; inform people that the Constitution is the basis for America’s great heritage and the foundation of our way of life; and encourage the study of historical events which led to the framing of the Constitution.”

“The framers created a Constitution that translated into law the ideals upon which our nation was built,” said DAR President General Denise Doring VanBuren. “Their vision was so forward-thinking that their words still guide us today. No American history education can be complete without a thorough understanding of the impact the Constitution has had on the lives of American citizens past and present.”

Traditionally, DAR chapters across the country have celebrated Constitution Week by supplying classrooms with flags and reference materials, creating displays in public areas like libraries and courthouses, obtaining proclamations from public officials, and distributing copies of the Constitution to educate the public about the principles on which the U.S. was founded.

A special event typically rings in the week-long celebration—literally. The DAR encourages churches, firehouses, schools and municipal buildings, as well as individuals, to ring bells for one minute as a part of “Bells Across America,” 3 p.m. Central on Sept. 17 in honor of the moment in which the Constitution was signed.

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