Was September a Plus or a Minus for the Constitution in Your State?
The news is filled with events that a constitutional scorekeeper could put into a plus or a minus column. His score would be based on whether or not the event acted to support or violate our great charter of liberty. The devastating tragedies in the Gulf States, for example, present a great forum to teach constitutional principles. Can you believe how far we have come as a people to rely on the federal government for help?
This expectation of federal involvement brings to mind the statement of President Grover Cleveland, a democrat, who was serving as president of the United States during the 100th anniversary of the Constitution in 1887. In his veto message of a private welfare bill passed by congress, he said:
"I can find no warrant for such an appropriation in the Constitution, and I do not believe that the power and duty of the General Government ought to be extended to the relief of individual suffering which is in no manner properly related to the public service or benefit. A prevalent tendency to disregard the limited mission of this power and duty should, I think, be steadfastly resisted, to the end that the lesson should be constantly enforced that though the people support the Government the Government should not support the people.
"The friendliness and charity of our countrymen can always be relied upon to relieve their fellow-citizens in misfortune. This has been repeatedly and quite lately demonstrated. Federal aid in such cases encourages the expectation of paternal care on the part of the Government and weakens the sturdiness of our national character, while it prevents the indulgence among our people of that kindly sentiment and conduct which strengthens the bonds of a common brotherhood." (As quoted in Skousen, The Five Thousand Year Leap, p. 178)
Meanwhile, the Constitution was being Celebrated!
In our own state of Arizona, and hopefully in yours, big plans were being carried out and perhaps exposing the Constitution to more people than ever before. Here is a sampling of what was happening:
Arizona State Constitutional Commemoration Committee
A More Perfect Union DVD Distribution Project
The Arizona State Constitutional Commemoration Committee, a state legislative committee made up of eight public members and four legislative members, in cooperation with the Arizona Department of Education set out to help Arizona schools comply with the new federal law requiring schools to have some form of Constitutional education on or near September 17th, Constitution Day.
The Committee secured private donations and developed a beautiful DVD sleeve for the education edition of A More Perfect Union, America Becomes A Nation. The donations and sleeves were obtained in order to distribute two copies of the DVD to every public and charter school in Arizona, over 1800 total schools. The packet also included a document aligning A More Perfect Union to the Arizona state social studies standards. In Addition, a DVD was also sent to every state legislator, every state department head, and numerous copies were given out at various Constitution Week events throughout the state. A total of 11,000 copies of A More Perfect Union were distributed in this project.
Arizona City Celebrations for Constitution Week
A proclamation was issued for the event during the Monday, September 19th Council Meeting. The Avondale library posted an event display and Constitution/American History stories were incorporated into story times throughout the month.
Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR) handed out Constitution posters to the local schools.
A proclamation was issued by the mayor. The Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR) sponsored a luncheon on September 17th at 11:00 a.m. to commemorate Constitution Week. They handed out bells to ring on September 17 at 4:00 p.m. EDT to commemorate Ringing of the Bells to hear the sound of patriotism from coast to coast on Constitution Day.
A proclamation for Constitution Week was issued by the mayor. The DAR speaker that month (on September 11th) addressed women’s right to vote.
On the 17th, 8 am-1 pm Boy Scouts of Mesa District held a Citizenship Merit Badge Seminar at the state capitol in Phoenix.
On the 17th, NCCS and the City of Mesa co-sponsored The Making of America day-long seminar with over 100 people in attendance.
On the 19th The 29th Annual Traditional Family Picnic and Constitution Celebration program was held at the Mesa Amphitheater. About 2000 people ate their picnics from 6-7 pm and then watched the program “Liberty, What is it worth to you?” from 7-8pm. A constitution test was given to high school students in attendance and the winner was awarded two round-trip tickets to Washington, D. C. by America West Airlines.
On the 22nd An entertaining and informative presentation “The Price They Paid-Portraits of the Founding Fathers” was given at Heritage Academy.
The mayor issued a proclamation. A More Perfect Union, a dramatic recreation of the Constitutional Convention was presented at Payson Public Library, provided by the Mogollon Chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution
A proclamation was issued by the mayor while the Sons of the American Revolution sent educational materials for civics to local schools. A display of the Constitution was posted at City Hall on September 21st – 23rd and Constitution Lessons were posted on a website for families to use.
A presentation was made by the General George Crook Chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution to fifth grade students at Taylor Hicks Elementary School about the events leading up to the writing of the Constitution and its contents. Pocket size copies of the US Constitution were given to all students.
Scottsdale/Fountain Hills/Paradise Valley
“I Signed the Constitution” activity was displayed at schools for students to sign. A Constitution Quiz contest was held with the winner receiving a trip to Washington D.C. There were presentations of awards for school poster contest winners and presentations of Citizenship Day proclamations by local mayors. The keynote address was given by Arizona State House of Representatives Speaker Jim Weiers. The Daughters of the American Revolution held a luncheon and the speaker was Mayor Mary Manross.
Gilbert (no doubt the most ambitious of all)
School Education Program
During the five weeks prior to Constitution Week founding era characters, George Washington, Benjamin Franklin, Abigail Adams and others, visited every elementary school in the Gilbert Public Schools District and some charter schools. Fifth grade classes received a 20-30 min lesson about the Constitutional Convention and the other grades received a 5-7 min presentation about the visiting character. All elementary students received a handout with Gilbert Constitution Week promotion and calendar of events, word activities, and three trading card cutouts with the instructions that if they attended the Constitution Fair they could complete the trading card set of 12 by seeking out characters and collecting their card from them.
Each junior high and high school student received a Gilbert Constitution Week handout and watched a 35 min segment of A More Perfect Union in their classroom.
Each teacher received a Gilbert Constitution Week Handout with Constitution Week promotion, a recommended book list, and recommended website list.
In this five week period 42,000 students and 2500 teachers were exposed to the Constitution and the framers of this great nation.
Art, Essay, & Poetry Contest
Over 250 Gilbert students participated in an art, essay, and poetry contest in which the 3 grand prize winners each received two round trip tickets to Washington D.C.
Family Constitution Lesson
65,000 copies of lessons about the United States Constitution and the separation of powers were distributed to Gilbert residents to spend an evening with their family learning about the Constitution. Every household in Gilbert received a lesson.
Citizenship in the Nation Merit Badge Clinic
Almost 200 Boy Scouts studies all the requirements for this Citizenship Merit Badge which is required in order to earn the rank of Eagle scout.
We the People
We the People, a musical comedy of Constitutional proportions, was performed throughout the week by Gilbert youth as part of Gilbert Fine Arts Association’s Theater Fest 2005.
Tribute to the Founders
This was a reverent evening of music and word honoring the framers of this great nation. Musical performances by talented Gilbert citizens and a keynote speaker made for an emotionally stirring event. Winners of the art, essay, and poetry contests were recognized by Gilberts’ Mayor Steve Burman and Superintendent of Schools, Dr. Brad Barrett. The winners read their winning essays and poetry and displayed their art at this event. Approximately 250 people attended the event.
The Constitution Fair is Gilbert Constitution Weeks signature event. A whole high school football field was set up for this event. Thousands of Gilbert families spent a couple of hours enjoying exhibits about the Constitution, including large replicas of the White House, Supreme Court, and Capitol which stands 19 feet tall. Also included is a 25 foot tall, walk-in replica of Independence Hall with a display about the Constitution and Declaration of Independence. A life-size, working replica of the Liberty Bell is also on display. Children’s activities, military displays, parachutists, community booths, elected officials, and other displays contributed to this memorable evening.
The fair concluded with a patriotic program titled “America, The Dream Goes On.” Musical performances by the Arizona Mormon Choir and Orchestra and other performers, commentary by Alexis de Tocqueville, all with a stirring multimedia back drop, were precursors to a Naturalization Ceremony in which 54 people representing 17 countries were sworn in as citizens of the United States. The presiding authority and keynote speaker for the event was Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor. Arizona’s Supreme Court Chief Justice Ruth McGregor also participated in the Ceremony.
After the Ceremony, the audience enjoyed a 20 min fireworks show with live patriotic music by the Choir and Orchestra.
It was estimated that 8000-9000 people attended the Constitution Fair.
Gilbert Constitution Week is privately funded through contributions from citizens and local businesses. The primary sponsors this year were Modern Woodmen of America, Beazer Homes, Cox Communications, East Valley Tribune, Catholic Healthcare West, UPS, and many other great supporters. A total of $49,000 was raised to pay for the events making them free to the public. An additional $70,000 in products and services are also donated to make these events possible. Over 200 community volunteers participated in one form or another in the planning and execution of Gilbert Constitution Week.
There were seven newspaper articles among four local newspapers and all four local network news covered the Constitution Fair.
Marketing and Advertising
Marketing and advertising are essential to the success of such events, said Bill Norton, chairman of Gilbert’s Constitution Week Celebration Committee. The following items formed the marketing strategies to promote Gilbert Constitution Week:
- 44,500 student and teacher handouts
- 2 commercials on video shown to 22,000 junior high & high school students
- 65,000 family constitution lessons
- $20,000 in newspaper ads
- 450 TV commercials
- 2500 fliers to Scout leaders
- 10,000 fliers to community churches
- 40,000 fliers to Gilbert students for art, essay, & poetry contest
- 4 press releases
In speaking to Mr. Norton after the event and suggesting he take a much deserved vacation, he said, “Yes, we’ll take a break from this activity for about two months but then we will begin next year’s planning to make it bigger and better!”
Our thanks to Mr. Norton and his committee for making this the largest single event I think I have ever participated in for Constitution Week.
Earl Taylor, Jr.