Most Americans know that July 4th is our nation's birthday. Far fewer Americans know that September 17th is the birthday of our government, the date in 1787 on which 39 of the 55 original delegates to the Philadelphia Convention completed and signed the U.S. Constitution. This year marks the 218th anniversary of the signing of the Constitution of the United States.
The ideas on which America was founded--commitments to the rule of law, limited government and the ideals of liberty, equality and justice--are embodied in the Constitution, the oldest written constitution of any nation on Earth. Constitution Day is intended to celebrate not only the birthday of our government, but the ideas that make us Americans.
Senator Robert Byrd of West Virginia proposed a bill, signed by President George W. Bush on December 8, 2004, which designates every September 17th as Constitution Day. As a result, any educational institution that receives federal funds is mandated to celebrate Constitution Day by offering an educational program, on or around the holiday.
In celebration of this day, on Monday, September 19, 2005, Marie Eisenstein, assistant professor of political science at IU Northwest, will open the following political science classes to the public in honor of Constitution Day:
The United States Congress (Y319), 1:00-2:15 p.m., in Library Conference Center 105 ABC;
Religion and Government (Y200), 2:30-3:45 p.m., in Library Conference Center 105 ABC; and
Introduction to American Politics (Y103), 4:00-5:15 p.m., in Library Conference Center 105 ABC.
The U.S. Constitution is the longest-running written constitution in world history. It defines us as Americans. The three branches of government that the Constitution created are the hallmarks of our national political life. These branches also wield great influence on each of us personally. The limits that the Constitution places on how political power is exercised have ensured our freedom for more than two centuries. Without our adherence to and defense of this remarkable document, there is no guarantee that we and future generations of Americans will remain free.
The Constitution embodies the vision of the Framers, their dream of freedom, supported by the genius of practical structure which has come to be known as the checks and balances and separation of powers. But we cannot defend and protect this dream if we are ignorant of the Constitution‘s history and how it works. Ignorance is ultimately the worst enemy of a people who want to be free.
To preserve the Constitution, citizens must be willing to make it work, to make it an active part of their lives. Each generation is charged with protecting and defending the Constitution at home and abroad, in peace and in war. Freedom never has come easy. This is the challenge facing each new generation of Americans. “By opening my classes on Constitution Day, this is a wonderful learning opportunity for students, the campus and the community,” says Eisenstein.
Why study the Constitution? According to Senator Robert Byrd, “Without constant study and renewal of our knowledge of the Constitution and its history we are in peril of allowing our freedoms to erode. If we fail to understand the importance of the checks and balances between Congress, the Supreme Court, and the Executive Branch, we will not be in a position to know when these checks are threatened,” stated Byrd. “Study the Constitution because it is both the foundation and the guardian of our liberties. Study it also with the knowledge that as strong and enduring as our Constitution has been, it is nevertheless a fragile, almost intangible thing that cannot survive without the dedication and constant support of citizens.”
The IU Northwest Constitution Day celebration is part of the campus' American Democracy Project (ADP). A national initiative involving 200 campuses, including IU Northwest, ADP offers academic and student life programs that explore civic activities vital to the life of a democracy—voting, volunteerism, and advocacy of social issues. Visit http://www.iun.edu/academic-affairs/ for more information on the American Democracy Project at IU Northwest.
Constitution Day classes are co-sponsored by the American Democracy Project, the Centers for Sustainable Regional Vitality and Cultural Discovery and Learning, Student Government Association, the School of Public and Environmental Affairs and the Department of Political Science. For more information on these classes, please contact Professor Marie Eisenstein at 219-980-6522.
For more information on Constitution Day and the U.S. Constitution, please visit the following websites:
http://www.constitutionday.us/ - Constitution Day Website, National Constitution Center
http://www.constitutioncenter.org/explore/Welcome/index.shtml - Explore the Constitution through interactive tools, kids activities, and more.
http://www.constitutioncenter.org/explore/TheU.S.Constitution/index.shtml - Full Text Version of the U.S. Constitution
http://www.constitutioncenter.org/constitution/ - Interactive Constitution Learning Tool
http://www.usconstitution.net/ - The U.S. Constitution Online
http://www.uscourts.gov/outreach/constitutionday.html - Constitution Day Education and Learning Resources
http://www.archives.gov/education/lessons/constitution-day/ - More Education Resources for Constitution Day
http://www.constitutionday.com/ - Constitution Day, Inc., Educational tools and includes a video with narration of the Preamble by Gen. Tommy Franks
http://www.loc.gov/law/guide/usconst.html#cd - Law Library of Congress, United States Constitution Texts, Commentaries, Historical Texts and Judicial Decisions