It’s Constitution Day, a time to celebrate the anniversary of one of America’s most important documents. It was 223 years ago, back on September 17, 1787, that 39 brave men (a.k.a. “dead white guys”) signed the parchment paper that was to lay the groundwork for the United States government, and, in many ways, our national system of values.
Here are my top five ways to honor the Constitution today:
1. Read the Constitution.
Perhaps it sounds obvious, but for many of us, it’s been a long time since we’ve gotten up-close-and-personal with the ink-on-paper–or text-on-screen–language of the Constitution. So drag out your dog-eared copy and start reading–at least a couple excerpts. Check out ConSource.org for an online text version of the Constitution.
2. Read About the Constitution–from Today’s Top Judges.
Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer has just released a new book
called Making Our Democracy Work, A Judge’s View. In the book, which is
geared toward a public audience–i.e. lite on the legalese–he
challenges an idea supported by another current Supreme Court Justice,
Antonin Scalia, called “originalism.”
Originalism, or textualism, contends that that the founding fathers
meant exactly what they wrote, with little room for interpretation.
Breyer calls for a more flexible view of the Constitution in light of
changing times, and believes that the authors never intended for it to
be “set-in-stone.” You be the judge. Read an interview with Justice
Breyer on NPR, along with excerpts from Making our Democracy Work.
While you’re at it, read Scalia’s book: A Matter of Interpretation:
Federal Courts and the Law.
3. Teach the Constitution.
National Geographic Education partner Thinkfinity provides resources
for teaching about the Constitution. Working through such a dense
document can be especially difficult for younger students; lesson plans
from EdSite and ConSource help make it easier. Challenge older students
to compare the language of the United States Constitution with the
Constitutions of other nations around the world, many of which were
modeled after our own.
4. Stay Up to Date on Current Cases.
The Constitution is a living document used to decide the most
contentious cases and resolve the most challenging issues of our day.
See it in action at StreetLaw.org and on the official website of the United States Supreme Court.
5. Stand-up For the Constitution.
Now that you know what the Constitution is all about, take a stand when
you feel someone’s Constitutionally-guaranteed rights are being
violated. A few geographically-relevant rights are freedom of speech
and freedom to express religious and cultural values, and the right
assemble peacefully in public spaces.
After all, the Constitution only lives through those of us who are living to embody it!
Sarah Jane for My Wonderful World