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Constitution Day and Citizenship Day, September 17

Constitution Day commemorates the formation and signing of the U.S. Constitution by thirty nine men on September 17, 1787

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Constitution Day and Citizenship Day, September 17
Stefani Reynolds GTRES

Constitution Day commemorates the formation and signing of the U.S. Constitution by thirty-nine brave men on September 17, 1787, recognising all who are born in the U.S. or those who have become citizens. It is normally observed on September 17, the day in 1787 that delegates to the Constitutional Convention signed the document in Philadelphia.

This commemoration had its origin in 1940, when Congress passed a joint resolution authorizing and requesting the President to issue annually a proclamation setting aside the third Sunday in May for the public recognition of all who had attained the status of American citizenship. The designation for this day was “I Am An American Day.”

The holiday quickly gained support and popularity through the efforts of the United States Immigration and Naturalization Service. In 1944, New York City news tycoon William Randolph Hearst sponsored a 16 minute film titled I Am an American, which was featured in American theaters, and subsequently became a top news story. It was an immediate hit. Within 5 years, the governors of the existing forty-eight states had issued state proclamations in agreement with the national holiday.

Date moves to September

In 1952, Congress repealed this joint resolution and passed a new law moving the date to September 17 to commemorate “the formation and signing, on September 17, 1787, of the Constitution of the United States.” The day was still designated as “Citizenship Day” and retained its original purpose of recognizing all those who had attained American citizenship.

This law urged civil and educational authorities of states, counties, cities and towns to make plans for the proper observance of the day and “for the complete instruction of citizens in their responsibilities and opportunities as citizens of the United States and of the State and locality in which they reside.”

Official holiday

Constitution Day became an official holiday alongside Citizenship Day in 2004 when, with the help of support from Senator Robert Byrd, the "Constitution Day" amendment to the Omnibus Spending Bill passed. In May 2005, the United States Department of Education backed the law when it announced that it would apply to any school receiving federal funds of any kind.

The two allowances of the law were that the head of every federal agency provide each employee with educational materials concerning the Constitution on 17th of September and that each educational institution which receives Federal funds should hold a program for students every Constitution Day.

Constitution Day, along with Independence Day and Presidents' Day, is an important part of the cultural heritage of the United States of America, because it recognises the value of the American experiment, and the success of a nation of free people whose rights and liberties are protected by a written Constitution.