Every American knows that on July 4, 1776, the Declaration of Independence was signed declaring the union of 13 states as a sovereign, independent nation. But few of us celebrate Sept. 17, 1789, the date the Constitution of the United States became the law of the land.
Locked behind guarded doors and windows in what is now called Philadelphia’s Independence Hall, delegates, many of whom had signed the Declaration of Independence in that very room, spent 100 hot summer days bantering ideas to create a new democratic government. George Washington presided and James Madison took copious notes which became invaluable when he wrote up the preamble, “We the people of the United States in order to form a more perfect union …” and the six articles defining our governmental structure.
On Feb. 6, 1789, our first election was held for president and a month later, Congress convened in New York.
There was no doubt the most respected person in the country, George Washington, would become our first president. After all, it was under Washington’s leadership that America was in control of its own destiny. After the inauguration on April 30, things moved quickly.
Five weeks later, Madison introduced the Bill of Rights — the first 10 amendments to the constitution. On Sept. 24, Congress established a supreme sourt, district and circuit courts and an attorney general. By Dec. 15, 1791, the Bill of Rights and 12 more proposed amendments were ratified by the states. Today, there are a total of 27 amendments.
Since that time, the Constitution of the United States of America continues to be the longest working document in the world and has served as a model by other countries writing their own constitutions.
In 1955, the national society Daughters of the American Revolution asked that the week of Sept, 17 to 23 be observed as Constitution Week. One Year Later, in 1956, President Dwight D. Eisenhower signed it into law.
Instead of parades and fireworks, Constitution Week starts Thursday, Sept. 17 with Bells Across America. At 1 p.m. Pacific (4 p.m. Eastern time) church and school bells are to ring for one full minute. And for the entire week, schools focus on our early history; libraries display books, movies and a copy of our constitution; veterans, scouting groups and school children sing patriotic songs and our flag flies high on all federal and state buildings.
I hope you will set aside the week fo Sept. 17 to 23 to show your patriotism in honor of our Constitution.
Janet Lynn Rubert