By Angela Thomas
After Labor Day, there is a second day of national observance in September that deserves our attention. That is Constitution Day, Sept. 17, the day that document was signed in 1787.
The U.S. Constitution stands as the oldest continuously functioning national constitution
in the world and a timeless model for nations seeking democratic reform. Constitution Day
should be celebrated. In a time of partisan divide and cultural rift, the Constitution stands as the singularly most important reason for national cohesion. When you hear folks say, “We are a nation of laws,” take it as a reason for celebration, because it means that we are governed by a documented set of principles that spell out our government’s responsibilities and how it
functions. Furthermore, it defines our rights and protections as citizens.
The United States’ constitutional government was a radical departure from monarchies,
theocracies and military dictatorships typical of the 18 th Century. It set out a form of government ruled by separate branches of power and specified how citizens select their representatives. Perhaps of equal importance, it spelled out how the principles of the document could be amended and legally contested. These provisions provided a dynamism that allows the Constitution to be clarified, expanded, interpreted and applied to new circumstances of our evolving country. There is no better example than the first 10 amendments to the Constitution, which became law four years after the Constitution was signed. It defines our rights as citizens.
Yes, Constitution Day should be celebrated. In fact, Congress mandates that on
Constitution Day all publicly funded educational institutions and federal agencies provide
educational programming on the history of the American Constitution. The Colorado Department of Education website confirms that our state take “an active role in complying with this law” and the education of students on the U.S. Constitution.
Because Constitution Day falls on a Sunday this year, government agencies and schools
properly should celebrate it on the following Monday. In fact, the entire week of Sept. 17 – 23 is nationally designated as Constitution Week. But, unless you are a government employee,
educator or student, you are on your own to plan ways to recognize the importance of the
Constitution to our country.
If you are like me, celebration means festivities, people, music, food and drink.
Regrettably, I am unaware of any Constitution Day events scheduled in cities and towns in
Douglas County. However, if you are of festive spirit, you need travel just 130 miles west to the mountain town of Grand Lake. The town bills itself as “Home of the Premier Constitution Week Celebration in America.” This year events are scheduled every day of the week leading up to
Constitution Day, including a variety of speakers, a movie showing, games, activities and a
parade. Check it out at www.grandlakeusconstitutionweek.com or better yet, plan to visit and
learn what might be possible here in Douglas County.
If travel to Grand Lake is not possible, consider a more personal way to recognize
Constitution Day. I invite you to honor the document the binds us all as Americans past, present and future. Learn about the dramatic history that led to its adoption. If you haven’t read the Constitution in a while, set aside some time to do so. Learn about the Amendments to the Constitution and Supreme Court decisions that continue to shape it. Share what you’ve learned with others, especially the young people in your life. An abundance of resources are available on the internet. Most are free.
Every President, U.S. Senator, Representative, military enlistee, federal employee,
naturalized citizen, in fact, every person who holds a public office in our state must make a
pledge that includes these 15 words…
“I will support and defend the Constitution and Laws of the United States of America.”
I believe that there is no better affirmation for us all on Constitution Day.