“We, the People of the United States, in order to form a more perfect Union, establish justice, insure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general welfare, and secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity do ordain and establish the Constitution of the United States of America.” ~The Preamble to the Constitution
Do you sometimes hear people speak of their constitutional rights? Have you ever read about the Supreme Court ruling a law as unconstitutional? Abraham Lincoln said, “Study the constitution! Let it be preached from the pulpit, proclaimed in the legislatures, and enforced by the courts of justice.” In 2004, Congress passed a law that mandates educational institutions receiving federal funds to conduct a program about the Constitution on or around September 17. This is a good time for people of all ages to learn about the principles upon which our country was founded.
In May of 1787, fifty-five delegates from thirteen states gathered for the Constitutional Convention at Independence Hall in Philadelphia. America had just won its independence from England. The states were working together under a loose agreement called the Articles of Confederation, but the Founding Fathers decided to create a Constitution that would be the basis of our federal government. George Washington was chosen as president of the Constitutional Convention. Among the men who wrote the Constitution were Benjamin Franklin, Alexander Hamilton, Thomas Jefferson, and James Madison.
On September 17, 1787, the delegates signed the Constitution of the United States of America. The first ten amendments to the Constitution were adopted in 1791 to further public confidence in the government and prevent abuse of its powers. Called the Bill of Rights, they establish the basic freedoms of Americans and protect the rights of individual citizens. For example, the First Amendment guarantees the free exercise of religion, speech, and the press. The Second Amendment guarantees the right of the people to own and bear firearms.
The Constitution is the highest law of the land. The framers specifically stated in the body of the Constitution that its provisions supersede any other law. No act of government, no law passed by Congress, and no law in any city, state, or town can conflict with the Constitution. The framers of the Constitution did not want the government to have absolute power, however, so they limited the powers of the central government and left some powers to the states. Each of the branches of government checks and balances the others. To protect the people’s right to self-government, changes in the Constitution are limited by a strict set of guidelines.
Experts consider the Constitution of the United States to be one of the most remarkable documents in history. Written over 200 years ago, it is the oldest working Constitution in the world, still standing as a model of cooperation and compromise. It incorporates the combined wisdom of some of the brightest minds in American history, who not only had a great love of their country but also had a beautiful command of the English language.
September 17 is also known as Citizenship Day, to focus on the rights and responsibilities of U.S. citizens both native-born and naturalized. Celebrations include pageantry and speeches to impress Americans with the privileges and responsibilities of U.S. citizenship. “Observance of Constitution Day and Citizenship Day is one way for each of us to take some time to reflect upon our civic duties, rights and obligations, through a renewed appreciation of this document that so eloquently expresses our firm belief in and commitment to liberty, freedom, and justice.” ~Patricia S. Bradshaw, Deputy under Secretary of Defense
Daniel Webster said, “Miracles do not cluster. Hold on to the Constitution of the United States of America and the Republic for which it stands—what has happened once in six thousand years may never happen again. Hold on to your Constitution, for if the American Constitution shall fail there will be anarchy throughout the world.”
Celebrate Constitution Week
Read “Shhh! We’re Writing the Constitution,” by Jean Fritz.
Get your community group, church, or civic club to sponsor the distribution of a pocket-sized Constitution. Hand them out to family, friends, schools, co-workers. Whitten Printers of Phoenix produces a Citizens Rule Book which contains the Constitution and Bill of Rights, Declaration of Independence, quotes by Founding Fathers, etc. It’s available for only $1.00 each or even less for quantity orders. Call (602)258-6406 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org. Can also be ordered online at www.homeschoolpatriot.com.
Impress your friends by memorizing the Preamble to the U.S. Constitution. I've put together a decorative copy of The Preamble, a memory activity, memorization tips, vocabulary, and Constitutional Quotations for Copywork (4 pages total). Click here to download and print:
Print out a page of hand motions to go along with the Preamble at: www.nccs.net/constitution-week/preamble.pdf.
Watch the award-winning DVD, “A More Perfect Union: America Becomes a Nation” (1989, 112 min.), a gripping account of the Federal Convention of 1787. "A More Perfect Union: America Becomes a Nation" is a 2-hour motion picture that re-creates in great detail those stirring, heated debates at the Constitutional Convention during the sweltering summer of 1787. Filmed on location at Independence Hall, Williamsburg, Virginia, and other historical sites, this award-winning film dramatically chronicles how America became a nation and those underlying principles that guard our freedoms today. This movie is Christian-based, and my favorite part is when the Constitutional Delegates are endlessly squabbling over some petty issue. Finally Ben Franklin stands up and says: “I've lived, Sir, a long time, and the longer I live, the more convincing Proofs I see of this Truth — That God governs in the Affairs of Men. And if a sparrow cannot fall to the ground without his Notice, is it probable that an Empire can rise without his Aid? We have been assured, Sir, in the Sacred Writings, that except the Lord build the House they labor in vain who build it. I firmly believe this, — and I also believe that without his concurring Aid, we shall succeed in this political Building no better than the Builders of Babel: We shall be divided by our little partial local interests; our Projects will be confounded, and we ourselves shall become a Reproach and Bye word down to future Ages.” He then suggests that they should continue only after taking time out for prayer. You can get this DVD in an educator’s package with additional resources at http://www.nccs.net.
Visit the following Web sites for more ideas:
www.homeschoolpatriot.com (Patriotic resources, educational materials, historical documents, and information on how you and your family can help preserve the heritage of our Founding Fathers.)
http://constitutionday.cpms.osd.mil (This website and U.S. Constitution course were developed by the Department of Defense to celebrate Constitution Day and Citizenship Day, and to assist employees and citizens in learning more about this most powerful and enduring document, the U.S. Constitution.)
www.nccs.net (National Center for Constitutional Studies Constitution curriculum, resources, articles, activities, and a quiz to test your knowledge of the Constitution.)
www.teach-at-home.com/fastfacts/usconstitution/constitution.asp (The U.S. Constitution Teach-at-Home Study Guide.)
www.americanchristianhistory.com/AmericasChristianHistoryCourse.html (America’s Christian History of the Constitution Correspondence Course.)
www.4america.com/archives/constitution (A 30-part study of the Constitution, from the Restoring America Project.)
www.constitutionfacts.com (Resource site includes lots of information for learning about the Constitution.)
http://www.billofrightsinstitute.org/teach/freeresources/ConstitutionDay (Constitution Day resources, lesson plans & activities.)
www.edhelper.com/Constitution_Day.htm (Constitution Day and Constitution Week activities, puzzles, review questions, and a play.)
www.archives.gov/education/lessons/constitution-day (The National Archives and Records Administration celebrates this important day in our nation's history by presenting the activities, lesson plans, and information for celebrating Constitution Day.)
http://www.whitehouse.gov/our-government/the-constitution (Facts, games, and resources for learning about the Constitution.)
http://www.constitutionday.cc/ (Free Constitution Day materials and educational resources.)
www.nccs.net/constitution-week/preamble.pdf (Print out this page of hand motions for memorizing the Preamble to the Constitution.)
www.RootsOfFreedom.org (Roots of Freedom educates and inspires youth, families, and all citizens to understand, respect, and preserve for future generations the values, freedoms, and ideals established by the Founding Fathers and fundamental documents of the United States of America.)
Teri Ann Berg Olsen is a home educator and author of “Learning for Life: Educational Words of Wisdom.” For more information, visit www.knowledgehouse.info.
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