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Constitution Day – The First Day of Constitution Week – Lesson

A time to celebrate and learn about the foundation of the United States.

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(Photo by Mark Reinstein/Corbis via Getty Images)

The Constitutional Convention was a meeting of delegates from the 13 original states. Most of the attendees didn’t plan to create a new system of government – they intended to discuss and fix the old Articles of Confederation they had been using. But some Framers had a different idea: They wanted a brand new frame to set out how the government should be run.

After three months of debate, a majority of the delegates signed the new plan. On September 17, 1787, 39 out of the 55 delegates signed one of the United States’ key founding documents – the Constitution. Even so, the Constitution couldn’t go into effect until nine out of 13 states had approved it. A few months later, the ninth state ratified it, and the Constitution finally went into effect on March 4, 1789.

Now Americans celebrate the first signing every September 17, called Constitution Day. Many also observe the week that follows, known as Constitution Week.

Constitution Day

Constitution Day was officially created in 2004, thanks to a bill sponsored by Senator Robert Byrd. Before then, the occasion was known as Citizenship Day. Byrd’s law made schools and government offices run programs on September 17 to help people learn about America’s founding.

On the first Constitution Day, in 2005, Byrd declared:

“Just as the birth of our nation depended on the quality, knowledge, and experience of the men who gave it life, its continued vitality depends on the efforts of our generation, and of future generations, to keep the vision of its Framers alive.

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(Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

“It depends on the personal commitment of each and every one of us to learn, to understand, and to preserve the governing principles that are set forth so clearly and powerfully in the text of our remarkable Constitution.”

Constitution Week

The week-long celebration was started by a group called the Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR). Founded in 1890, the DAR is a women’s group with more than 950,000 members. It all began when four women “felt the desire to express their patriotic feelings and were frustrated by their exclusion from men’s organizations.” So they started their own. The women worked to commemorate those who “fought to make this country free and independent.”

The group’s aim is to keep alive “the memory and spirit of the men and women who achieved American Independence.” Another goal is to follow George Washington’s instruction. He told Americans in his Farewell Address “to promote, as an object of primary importance, institutions for the general diffusion of knowledge.” In other words, Washington hoped the people would promote education and knowledge for all Americans.

In 1955, the DAR asked Congress to assign a week each year for celebrating the Constitution. A law to create Constitution Week was signed on August 2, 1956, by President Dwight D. Eisenhower.

Today, the DAR is still involved in the week-long event, promoting celebrations across the country.

Celebrating the Constitution

One common way to celebrate Constitution Week is to learn something about the Constitution and what it means for America. Lots of communities put on special events. The DAR holds an annual event called Bells Across America: All over the country, bells are rung for a full minute at 4 p.m., which is around the time the Constitution was signed.