Considering this is a presidential election year, I thought it would be a good time to highlight the fact that today, September 17 is Constitution Day. During my research, I discovered it is an American federal holiday, also known as Citizenship Day. It recognizes the ratification of United States Constitution and it is the day that the U.S. Constitution was signed in 1787 at the Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia. This holiday was written into law in 2004 as a day for publicly funded schools to provide educational programming highlighting the history of the United States Constitution—it’s not a paid day off for federal workers.
The idea of it being a holiday is new to me, but I remember when I was in the fourth grade, we had an assembly for Constitution Day. I was asked to participate and read the Preamble. Now that I think about it, it was my first “voice over” assignment (I was located back stage with a mic).
The Preamble (Statement of Purpose):
We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, 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 parts of the Constitution that people often quote and defend their constitutional rights—freedom of speech, right to bear arms—are “The Bill of Rights.” These ten amendments to the Constitution were added in 1791. They were added to protect the American citizens from the government. Because times change, so has the Constitution, with other amendments being eventually added. Because of these changes, the Constitution is considered a “living document.” The Supreme Court was put in place to continually interpretation without changing the basic tenets.
I am not going to list all the amendments here, because links are provided below. But as we prepare to vote on November 4th we should keep some of these amendments in mind:
- 12th Amendment (1804): Changes the method of presidential elections so that members of the Electoral College cast separate ballots for president and vice president.
- 13th Thirteenth Amendment (1865): Abolishes slavery and grants Congress power to enforce abolition.
- 14th Amendment (1868): Defines a set of guarantees for United States citizenship; prohibits states from abridging citizens’ privileges or immunities and rights to due process and the equal protection of the law; repeals the Three-fifths compromise; prohibits repudiation of the federal debt caused by the Civil War.
- 15th Amendment (1870): Forbids the federal government and the states from using a citizen’s race, color, or previous status as a slave as a qualification for voting.
- 16th Amendment (1913): Authorizes unapportioned federal taxes on income.
- 17th Amendment (1913): Establishes direct election of senators.
- 19th Amendment (1920): Prohibits the federal government and the states from forbidding any citizen to vote due to their sex.
- 20th Amendment (1933): Changes details of Congressional and presidential terms and of presidential succession.
- 22nd Amendment (1951): Limits president to two terms.
- 23rd Amendment (1961): Grants presidential electors to the District of Columbia.
- 24th Amendment (1964): Prohibits the federal government and the states from requiring the payment of a tax as a qualification for voting for federal officials.
- 25th Amendment (1967): Changes details of presidential succession, provides for temporary removal of president, and provides for replacement of the vice president.
- 26th Amendment (1971): Prohibits the federal government and the states from forbidding any citizen of age 18 or greater to vote on account of their age.
I would encourage everyone to read the full document for themselves. But before you do, have a little fun and take the Constitution I.Q. Challenge. Not to brag but, my Score: 8 out of 10 = Constitution Whiz Kid; Avg Score for people in my state = 6.991, National Avg Score = 7.305