Constitution Day is an often-overlooked holiday in these United States of America. Two hundred thirty-four years ago on Sept. 17, 1787, the founders of our country signed what is arguably the most important document in the history of America. This year, the 20th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks, is a good time to revisit that framework of our republic. How many of the following are you familiar with?
Did you know that there were 39 signers of the Constitution? You likely recognize names like George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Alexander Hamilton and Benjamin Franklin. But how about Rufus King, the only delegate from Massachusetts? King grew up in a wealthy family, wealth that was resented and envied. Upon passage of the Stamp Act of 1765, the King home was vandalized and the barn was burned to the ground. King later served as the U.S. envoy to the Court of St. James. Ever a Federalist, King lost his bids for the vice-presidency in 1804 and 1808, as well as losing the presidential election in 1816.
Constitution Day is also Citizenship Day, a day on which we recognize people who are studying to become U.S. citizens. Questions about the Constitution and the rights and responsibilities of citizens figure prominently on the naturalization test, as do questions about American history. The following questions are representative of what might appear on the test. How many can you answer?
What is one responsibility that is only for U.S. citizens?
Who was President during World War I?
What are two rights of everyone living in the United States?
Name one of the two longest rivers in the United States.
The Federalist Papers supported the passage of the U.S. Constitution. Name one of the writers.
Answers to these five questions are below. How did you do?
Every educational institution that receives federal funds for the fiscal year is required to hold an educational program about the U.S. Constitution for its students. The U.S. Department of Education does not mandate any particular curricula; still, the responsibility lies with each school to adequately educate its students about our form of government and how it came into being. Ceremonies and programs can bring us together to reflect on the importance of active citizenship, recognize the enduring strength of our Constitution, and reaffirm our commitment to the rights and obligations of citizenship.
The National Archives has developed a national civic education initiative called “We Rule: Civics for All of US” that promotes civic literacy and engagement. Constitution Day (and Constitution Week, Sept. 17 - 23) is a great time to explore these online programs and resources at archives.gov/news/topics/constitution-day.
Here are the answers to the questions above:
Serve on a jury; vote in a federal election.
Freedom of expression; freedom of speech; freedom of assembly; freedom to petition the government; freedom of religion; the right to bear arms.
Missouri River; Mississippi River.
James Madison; Alexander Hamilton; John Jay; Publius.
And here is your bonus question: The idea of self-government is in the first three words of the Constitution. What are these words? Answer: “We the People.”