What is Constitution Day?
Constitution Day is observed every year on September 17 to honor the signing and adoption of the constitution of the United States of America by the Founding Fathers in Philadelphia on September 17, 1787.
Also, Constitution Day is also known as Citizenship Day, which was the name of the holiday until 2004, as its purpose was to "recognize all who, by coming of age or by naturalization, have become citizens". Citizenship Day, in turn, was inspired by "I am an American Day", created in the 1940s to celebrate citizenship. The official name of the holiday is now "Constitution Day and Citizenship Day".
Why Did It Start?
I always wondered how commemorating the Constitution’s birthday became a condition to participation in Title IV programs. The late Senator Robert C. Byrd believed that students lacked significant knowledge regarding the U.S. Constitution. Senator Byrd proposed an amendment that was passed by both houses of Congress which gave rise to Constitution Day.
In researching Constitution Day, I found some ideas and resources you can use to craft your own celebration.
- The Department’s Federal Resources for Excellence in Education (FREE) offers more than 25 resources from various federal agencies at https://www2.ed.gov/free/features/constitution-day.html
- The National Archives website provides Constitution Day activities and materials. http://www.archives.gov/education/lessons/constitution-day/ and http://www.archives.gov/education/lessons/constitution-workshop/
- The Library of Congress American Memory site provides numerous resources on the Constitution. These two links provide access: http://memory.loc.gov/ammem/amlaw/lawhome.html and http://thomas.loc.gov/teachers/constitution.html
- The National Endowment for the Humanities provides content on the Constitution through the EDSITEMENT web site-http://edsitement.neh.gov/constitution-day
- The U.S. Senate has posted material from the Legislative Branch:http://www.senate.gov/artandhistory/history/common/generic/ConstitutionDay.htm
- We also encourage you to access information about the Constitution on the National History Education Clearinghouse (NHEC) site at www.teachinghistory.org. The NHEC is funded by the U.S. Department of Education under contract no. ED-07-CO-0088. The NHEC homepage features special, highlighted information on teaching resources for Constitution Day.
PL 108-447, “Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2005,” Dec. 8, 2004; 118 Stat. 2809, 3344-45 (Sec.111).