Authored By: Linda Weiksnar
I was talking to a group of 8th graders about the Bill of Rights; we were discussing which of their rights they would be willing to give up. One of them, a girl I knew to already have more than a passing acquaintance with the back seat of a police cruiser, asked me about the “right to counsel.” After discussing it for a few minutes, she looked around at her friends and commented wisely, “That seems like an important one to keep.” That moment crystallized the importance of Constitution Day – September 17 – commemorating the day on which our Constitution was adopted in 1787.
Our Constitution is the framework for the oldest working democratic form of government and has been the model for almost every other democratic constitution in existence today. It is a remarkable document which not only lays out how our government is to be set up but provides its citizens with inalienable rights, and which has lasted –with astonishingly few revisions—for over 225 years.
Each year, members of our legal community talk with students about the Constitution in the days surrounding September 17 – logistically, it’s tough to get to all the schools on one day. Each year, I am delighted to have one or two students who already know something about the Constitution – whether they’ve learned from Schoolhouse Rocks! or the wonderful PBS series (you should check it out) or their parents or teachers. Yet each year, I have a handful of students at the other end of the spectrum – the first they have heard of the Constitution is when the teacher says “We have a speaker this morning on the Constitution.” They don’t know about the Bill of Rights, their rights, guaranteed to them by the blood of their forefathers, protected for them by the sacrifice of their immediate family members. And if they don’t know about their rights, how will they know the importance of protecting them, each and every day?
Protecting our Constitutional Rights for your children, and their children, and so on. That’s why Constitution Day matters.