Today in History: Constitution Day
It’s a little like a scene from To Kill a Mockingbird – Scout and Jem peering through the bannisters in awe of their father, Atticus, who bravely defended Tom Robinson, a black man accused of rape. But it is the Congress, not the courtroom, decades later, and my brothers and I are in Springfield, Illinois, not Maycomb, Alabama. And the occasion, despite Vietnam and the draft, is happier, for citizens are exercising their right to shape government — not just practice law. From high up in the balcony, we are witness to the Constitutional Convention, also known as Con Con, where delegates are reviewing and revising the state’s laws. I recall persuasive speeches by many a lawyer, and my father’s tenacity in pushing forth the proposal that lowered the voting age from 21. The vital, at times dramatic process sparked my interest in youth government, leading me to participate on school councils, and offerings through the local YMCA. For us, voting from the age of 18 became a duty, not just a privilege.
September 17, 1878 marks the date when the 39 delegates to the Constitutional Convention met for the last time in Philadelphia to sign the U.S. Constitution which commences with the words– reflective of life, liberty, freedom, and prosperity –“We the People”. Originally comprising seven articles, the document describes the national frame of government and has been interpreted, amended, supplemented by the Bill of Rights, and implemented. It has influenced democracy in countries worldwide.
This year Constitution Day is observed across the United States on September 16th. Teachers College got a head start yesterday, with a program entitled, “Constitution Day: Achieving the American Dream: Immigration, Education, and Social Justice“, moderated by Dr. Victoria Marsick, Professor of Education, Department of Organization and Leadership at Teachers College. Dr. Michelle Knight-Manuel, Professor of Education, Department of Curriculum and Teaching at Teachers College, and Dr. Evangeline Harris Stefanakis, Associate Professor of Educational Leadership and Policy Studies at Boston University, and alumna of Teachers College, shared their visions.
The following articles are selected from Proquest Historical Newspapers, which serves to inform and inspire classroom teaching and learning. Happy Constitution Day, America!
- Constitution Day. (1920, Sep 17). The Washington Post (1877-1922)
- Today Is Constitution Day. (1928, Sep 17). The Hartford Courant (1923-1990)
- Constitution Day. (1933, Sep 17). Los Angeles Times (1923-Current File)
- Defend Freedom, Is Constitution Day Plea to U.S. (1935, Sep 18). Chicago Daily Tribune (1923-1963)
- Nettleton, T. (1937, May 26). 1787–the Constitution–1937. The Christian Science Monitor (1908-Current File)
- Shientag, B. L. (1947, Sep 17). Constitution Day: Document’s Role in Legal History of U.S. Cited. New York Herald Tribune (1926-1962)
- Grasso, E. T. (1962, Sep 16). The People’s Forum. The Hartford Courant (1923-1990)
- “Are We to Be a Nation?”: Celebrating the Constitution. (1987, May 22). The Christian Science Monitor (1908-Current File)
- Kammen, M. (1987, Jul 05). Let There Be a Constitution Day! Newsday (1940-1988)
- Karp, A. (1987, Sep 16). The Law of the Land: “We the People” Celebrate Constitution’s 200th Birthday. The Sun (1837-1991)
- Dillon, S. (2005, Sep 16). From Yale to Cosmetology School, Americans Brush Up on History and Government. New York Times (1923-Current File)
Tip: See here for additional information from the National Constitutional Center, concerning Constitution Day, including facts, lesson plans, videos, and more, as we celebrate the most influential document in American history.
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