Constitution Day is an opportunity to reflect on America’s achievements and the opportunities it provides for its citizens
‘We need to understand our heritage
if we are to ensure the future’
WASHINGTON, DC, Sep 12 – The nation celebrates Constitution Day on September 17—the day in 1787 that our Constitution was signed in Philadelphia. And, David Bruce Smith, co-founder of the Grateful American Book Prize, says it is particularly important that we continue to remind our children, grandchildren, and great grandchildren about what the Constitution is all about.
“Why? Because several recent polls indicate that younger Americans are beginning to think the unthinkable: that they’d be better off under a socialist government. This is not a political issue; it’s an example of the lack of knowledge and understanding of how and why our nation was founded—and has evolved—since the Constitution was signed, 231 years ago,” according to Smith.
The Victims of Communism Memorial Foundation, which was created by an Act of Congress in 1993, conducted one poll. It showed that millennials – the generation born between the early ‘80s and the middle ‘90s – would prefer to live in a socialist, communist or fascist nation.
But, it’s interesting to note that the Foundation’s survey also asked respondents to define socialism and/or communism, and they couldn’t.
Smith says the data seems to support “why the late Dr. Bruce Cole and I established the Grateful American Book Prize. The idea was to show just how exciting the subject could be for kids.”
Smith believes offering the Award encourages authors and their publishers to focus on historically accurate fiction and nonfiction for adolescents.
But, he says, it’s not just the kids who are poorly informed; adults are shockingly uninformed, as well. He cites a survey conducted by the Annenberg Public Policy Center that reveals nearly two-thirds of Americans–in general– cannot name even one of the rights guaranteed to us by the First Amendment. And, nearly 75% could not identify the three branches of government.
In 1940 “I am an American Day” was established by Congress– to be observed, annually, on the third Sunday in May. In the meantime, a patriotic Ohioan named Olga T. Weber, was advancing her own notions about how best to disseminate the word about what it means to be an American. By 1952 she was in the midst of a crusade to set aside a day to honor the country’s heritage. The following year, she convinced Congress and President Dwight D. Eisenhower to establish September 17th –every year–as Citizenship Day.
Later, another patriot, Louise Leigh-–already immersed in the study of the U.S. Constitution—founded a 1997 non-profit organization called Constitution Day Inc. Her aim was to shift the focus from Citizenship Day to the U.S. Constitution. In a 2005 Education World interview she explained her purpose:
“I became acutely aware of the uniqueness, the greatness, and the miracle of our Constitution. Until the 1800s, every American child could recite all the freedoms guaranteed in the Constitution, which is not done today. We celebrate Independence Day on July 4 with gusto. The Revolutionary War gave us independence from England, but the Constitution is the document that gave us freedom, which has made us the greatest and mightiest nation in history,” Ms. Leigh said.
Smith believes that making progress as a nation requires Americans to understand and protect the legacy of our Founding Fathers who formulated the document. “In other words, we need to understand our heritage if we are to ensure the future. But, you can’t appreciate what you don’t know. So, it might be a good idea to celebrate Constitution Day this year—differently, by inspiring all of the kids in your family with good books about the founding of our nation, and the events and people that got us where we are.”