On September 17, 1787, delegates from each state signed the Constitution. At 224 years old, the Constitution is now the longest lasting, most imitated national constitution in the world. It unified the country during a time of tremendous instability by providing a stable national government over the 13 separate states. Hearkening back to the first principles of the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution creates the processes through which we consider and evaluate the policy questions of today. Therefore, every September 17th we celebrate this fundamental document—our United States Constitution. And here’s how you can join us.
In Washington D.C., The Heritage Foundation continues to Preserve the Constitution with this week’s lecture featuring John Yoo (you can still watch last week’s panel on Reagan on the Constitution). Hillsdale College commemorates the Constitution with an all-star line-up including Representative Paul Ryan and Charles Krauthammer (watch it online). The Tocqueville Forum revives the Federalist vs. Anti-federalist debate with a discussion of the Ratification of the Constitution. And of course, while in the nation’s capital, don’t forget to pay homage to the document itself with a trip to the National Archives.
Not in DC? Not a problem! Attend one of the many Constitution Day festivals from sea to shining sea, sponsored by Americans for Prosperity. Find one near you. Or, host your own Constitution party. We Read the Constitution has a list of Constitution parties in 16 states. Add your state to the list and sign up to host your own party.
Looking for educational activities for your family or school? Check out some of the great online resources that other organizations have made available. Many of them, such as the National Constitution Center and the Bill of Rights Institute, produce teachers’ lessons that help bring the Constitution into the classroom. Teaching American History has the most comprehensive and user-friendly resource on the Constitutional Convention debates available on the Web. Heritage has several excellent lectures on the importance of the Constitution: For instance, Harvey Mansfield argues that the future of conservatism rests on its ability to defend the Constitution, and Judge Janice Rogers Brown calls on the current generation to reinvigorate the American regime of liberty by returning to first principles.
Finally, because the viability of our country depends on our fidelity to, and the faithful exposition and interpretation of, the Constitution, crack open your Heritage Guide to the Constitution. Find out the original meaning of the Borrowing Clause, or learn how many states needed to ratify the Constitution for it to go into effect. Impress your friends with your extensive knowledge of little-known clauses, like the Sinecure Clause (plus, stay tuned for the forthcoming curriculum to the Heritage Guide to the Constitution).
The challenge of the Constitutional Convention was to create the institutional arrangements necessary for limiting power and securing the rights promised in the Declaration of Independence while preserving a republican form of government that reflected the consent of the governed. Their solution: a strong government of adequate but limited powers, all carefully enumerated in a written constitution. In addition to an energetic executive, a bicameral legislature, and an independent judiciary, the Constitution relies on structural arrangements of separated powers and federalism. That the delegates could agree on such a system was, according to George Washington, “little short of a miracle.”
224 years later we still celebrate the miracle of the Constitution. Won’t you join us?