Los 40 USA
NewslettersSign in to commentAPP
spainSPAINchileCHILEcolombiaCOLOMBIAusaUSAmexicoMEXICOlatin usaLATIN USAamericaAMERICA


What is Constitution Day and why is it celebrated?

The Constitution of the United States is over 230 years old but it was not until fairly recently that there was an official celebration of the document.

The founding fathers signed the US Constitution over two centuries ago but it took over 200 years before the nation would dedicate a day to celebrate it.

Americans celebrate the Declaration of Independence every 4th of July, marking the seven years of sacrifice undertaken to gain independence. The thirteen states signed Articles of Confederation and Perpetual Union but these historic documents left the fledgling nation’s federal government largely powerless. In fact, a new government was required.

The states held a new Constitutional Convention in 1787 where 55 delegates drew up the foundation of US democracy. On 17 September 1787, 39 delegates signed the new US Constitution which has formed the backbone of the nation for 235 years.

The beginnings of Constitution Day

The Founding Fathers drew up the US Constitution in the 18th century but it wasn’t until 1939 that newspaper magnate William Randolph Hearst suggested the idea of an “I am an American Day,” which would later morph into Constitution Day.

Hearst used his newspaper empire and considerable political connections to campaign for his new holiday celebrating American citizenship. In 1940 Congress officially designated the third Sunday in May as “I am an American Day” and it quickly gained tremendous popularity.

Then, in 1952, an Ohioan named Olga T. Weber petitioned municipal leaders in Louisville to change the date to the anniversary of the signing of the Constitution. Her bid was successfully and Louisville officials duly moved the celebration to 17 September.

Unsatisfied with that victory, Weber continued and managed to convince first state and then federal lawmakers to make the same change. In 1953 the nation celebrated its first “Citizenship Day” on 17 September.

The US celebrates its Constitution

The next step toward the US celebrating the bedrock of its democratic institutions came aftera woman named Louise Leigh took a course in Constitutional History with the National Center for Constitutional Studies. What she learned so inspired her that she founded an organization called Constitution Day to spread knowledge about the sacred document.

In 2004 Constitution Day was recognized as an official holiday; Senator Robert Byrd pushed for it to be included in an Omnibus Spending Bill alongside Citizenship Day. From 2005 onwards the United States Department of Education began apply it to federal funds for schools to help inform and educate students about the Constitution. The law also required the heads of every federal agency to provide educational materials regarding the Constitution to mark 17 September every year.

It has been a fairly convoluted journey but after more than two centuries the US now has an annual celebration of the signing of the Constitution, and the freedoms and securities that it continues to grant to Americans.

President Biden explained recently that Constitution Day was designed to allow Americans the chance “to honor the timeless principles enshrined in our Constitution,” which “has guided our growth, shaped our progress, and defined us as a Nation of sacred laws and fundamental values.”