Friday, Sept. 17, 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. The Constitution stands as a testament to the tenacity of Americans throughout history to maintain their liberties and freedom, and to ensure those unalienable rights to every American.
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 No. 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.
The United States of America functions as a republic under the Constitution, which is the oldest document still in active use that outlines the self-government of a people. This landmark idea that men had the inalienable right as individuals to be free and live their lives under their own governance was the impetus of the American Revolution. Today, the Constitution stands as an icon of freedom for people around the world.
“We must remember and teach that those who wrote the Constitution believed that no government can create freedom, but that government must guard freedom rather than encroach upon the freedoms of its people” stated Merry Ann T. Wright, President General of the DAR. “The Constitution by itself cannot guarantee liberty. A nation’s people can remain free only by being responsible citizens who are willing to learn about the rights of each arm of government and require that each is accountable for its own function. Therefore, Constitution Week is the perfect opportunity to read and study this great document which is the safeguard of our American liberties. We encourage all citizens across the country to take time this week to guard that which is committed to us by our forefathers ... our freedom.”
DAR has served America for 120 years as its foremost cheerleader. In 1928, the Daughters began work on a building as a memorial to the Constitution. John Russell Pope, architect of the Jefferson Memorial, was commissioned to design the performing arts center, known as DAR Constitution Hall. Today, DAR Constitution Hall is the only structure erected in tribute to the Constitution of the United States of America.
Here in Pagosa, the local Sarah Platt Decker Chapter is sponsoring a month long display about the Constitution designed by chapter member Sandy Howe at the Ruby Sisson Library. The chapter has also donated bookmarks with the Preamble to the Constitution to the library for distribution.
Known as the largest women’s patriotic organization in the world, DAR has over 165,000 members with approximately 3,000 chapters in all 50 states and 11 foreign countries. Membership is open to all women aged 18 and over who can prove lineally descent from a patriot of the American Revolution. The DAR has long promoted patriotism through commemorative celebrations, memorials, scholarships and activities for children, and programs for new immigrants. For more information about DAR and its programs call Chapter Regent, Lynn Constan 946-8480.