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Spread the word, celebrate Constitution Week

Sep. 06, 2013 @ 12:00 AM

Sept. 17, 2013, begins the national celebration of Constitution Week. The weeklong commemoration of America's most important document is one of our country's least-known official observances. Our Constitution stands as a testament to the tenacity of Americans throughout history to maintain their liberties and freedom, and to ensure those inalienable rights to every American. Signed in Philadelphia on Sept. 17, 1787, this founding document reflects our core values and enshrines the truths set forth in the Declaration of Independence, that we are each endowed with certain unalienable rights. As the beneficiaries of these rights, all Americans have a solemn obligation to participate in our democracy so that it remains vibrant, strong and responsive to the needs of our citizens.

To succeed, the democracy established in our Constitution requires the active participation of its citizenry. Each of us has a responsibility to learn about our Constitution and teach younger generations about its contents and history. By fulfilling civic duties, engaging government at the local, state, and federal level, and volunteering in our communities, individual citizens can better our country and breathe life into the freedoms established in the Constitution.

The right to participate in self-government, and the many other freedoms guaranteed by our Constitution, inspire the dreams and ambitions of many inside and outside our borders. These principles serve as a beacon of hope for Americans and those who seek new lives in the United States. Every day, we welcome new and diverse stories and heritages into the great patchwork of our nation. United by our devotion to the Constitution and to the civic engagement it inspires, Americans remain committed to the fundamental principles established over 200 years ago.

The tradition of celebrating the Constitution was started many years ago by the Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR). In 1955, the Daughters petitioned Congress to set aside Sept. 17-23 annually to be dedicated for the observance of Constitution Week. The resolution was later adopted by the U.S. Congress and signed into Public Law #915 on Aug. 2, 1956 by President Dwight D. Eisenhower. The aims of the celebration are to (1) emphasize citizens' responsibilities for protecting and defending the Constitution, preserving it for posterity; (2) inform the people that the Constitution is the basis for America's great heritage and the foundation for our way of life; and (3) encourage the study of the historical events which led to the framing of the Constitution in September 1787.

"Constitution Week is the perfect opportunity to read and study this great document which is the safeguard of our American liberties," states DAR President General Lynn Forney Young. "We encourage all citizens across the country to take time this week to reflect on our heritage of freedom and come together to Celebrate America!"

Locally, the Kanawha Valley Chapter DAR will promote the celebration of Constitution Week in schools, libraries and businesses by providing posters and free patriotic materials. Exhibits on the Constitution will be displayed by the chapter at the West Virginia Capitol Rotunda, the Robert C. Byrd Federal Courthouse, libraries and several schools in Kanawha, Putnam and Cabell counties. Letters with information for teaching about the Constitution were sent to all elementary schools in Kanawha County early in September.

Churches and individuals are invited to join in the national "ringing of bells across America" observance at 4 p.m. on Sept. 17 to commemorate the signing of the Constitution.

Shirley M. Gilkeson is Past Vice President General NSDAR, Honorary WVDAR State Regent, and Honorary Regent Kanawha Valley Chapter. She can be reached at SGilkeson@aol.com.

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