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Bill of Rights Day – 230 Years of Protecting Freedom

America celebrates the Bill of Rights on its 230th anniversary.

By:  |  December 15, 2022  |    547 Words
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(Photo by Marty Caivano/Digital First Media/Boulder Daily Camera via Getty Images)

December 15 is Bill of Rights Day – a day to celebrate the rights that every American enjoys, from freedom of speech to the right to a fair trial. The U.S. Bill of Rights is made up of the first ten amendments to the Constitution. It is about respecting the individual’s rights – the rights held by each one of us, celebrating our voices, protecting our lives, and demanding that a single person matters.

The Bill of Rights contains the basic rights of Americans – but it almost didn’t exist! Many of the Founders didn’t believe a Bill of Rights was necessary. Even the author of the original document, James Madison, didn’t think it was needed!

Eventually, Madison was convinced to write up the bill, but his original version was different to what we know today. The first draft contained 19 amendments, but it underwent a few changes and the final version was approved with ten amendments.

Bill of Rights Day

GettyImages-1222445846 Franklin D. Roosevelt

Franklin D. Roosevelt (Photo by Icon and Image/Getty Images)

In August 1941, Congress asked President Franklin D. Roosevelt to create a day to recognize the Bill of Rights.

The president declared that day on December 15, 1941 – exactly 150 years after the document was ratified. Roosevelt proclaimed that public buildings should display the U.S. flag, while Americans should meet to celebrate in any way they thought proper.

Over the next two decades, Bill of Rights Day was declared only a few times. Since 1962, it has been officially recognized by the president every year.

On the first Bill of Rights Day, Roosevelt decreed:

The first ten amendments, the great American charter of personal liberty and human dignity, became a part of the Constitution of the United States on the fifteenth day of December, 1791.

“It is fitting that the anniversary of its adoption should be remembered by the Nation which, for one hundred and fifty years, has enjoyed the immeasurable privileges which that charter guaranteed: the privileges of freedom of religion, freedom of speech, freedom of the press, freedom of assembly, and the free right to petition the Government for redress of grievances.”

Little did Congress know when it made its request that the U.S. would soon be challenged on its way of life. On December 7, 1941, the American Navy base at Pearl Harbor was attacked by the Japanese. That very day, the U.S. joined World War II. President Roosevelt was celebrating the U.S. Bill of Rights just as the nation was going to war against Imperial Japan, Nazi Germany, and Fascist Italy.

Roosevelt noted that Americans must value their rights, especially upon seeing how the people in Europe had lost their freedoms under the harsh Fascist and Nazi regimes, which ruled by total government control over the people.

A few years later, in 1945, it was the Allies (U.S., Britain, the Soviet Union) who won the war.

That doesn’t mean the Bill of Rights is never threatened. Everybody who wants to see it endure has the duty to learn about and promote those rights and freedoms. As President Andrew Jackson said in 1837, “eternal vigilance by the people is the price of liberty, and that you must pay the price if you wish to secure the blessing.”

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