Dear Federal Colleagues—on Constitution Day we here at the National Archives are happily tasked with promoting the United States Constitution . . . and you are too! Why? Because of an act of Congress that was the brainchild of Senator Robert C. Byrd (1917–2010).
Senator Byrd loved the Constitution. He studied it in college. He recited it on countless occasions during his 92 years. He even carried a pocket version of it with him at all times. Over the course of his 60-year congressional career, he pulled out his mini-Constitution during numerous speeches and debates.
Byrd loved the Constitution so much that he founded the modern Constitution Day (although Constitution and Citizenship Day have long been celebrated). Since the Constitution symbolizes one of our country’s greatest accomplishments, Byrd wanted a holiday that not only honored it but also promoted it.
For Byrd, the Constitution was not just the piece of parchment in the National Archives, but “a revered and living document, capable of inspiring a nation to achieve seemingly impossible dreams and irrepressible hopes.”
He also recognized that the United States is best served when its citizens are informed and engaged with their government, and thought there should be a day to commemorate our most important governing document.
So, in 2004 Byrd included a provision in an appropriations act designating September 17 of each year as Constitution Day. September 17 was the day the Constitution was signed back it 1787.
The act requires public schools and Federal governmental offices to provide educational programs to promote a better understanding of the Constitution.
Byrd hoped that the annual event wouldn’t be seen as a burden but rather to help us understand the origins of our government and celebrate our nation’s common past.
As the keeper of the original Constitution, the National Archives wants to help our Federal colleagues celebrate this day.
We have put together a Constitution Day web page with our programs, family activities, and online resources.
So read aloud the text of the Constitution, come visit the Constitution in person, or explore our resources to find your own unique way of marking this annual event. And then share these resources with all of your colleagues in education and government and all of your fellow Americans. It’s what Senator Byrd would have wanted.
Happy Constitution Day!