Next week marks the anniversary of a monumental event in American history.
Sept. 17-23 will be observed as Constitution Week, a national commemoration celebrating the 231st anniversary of the signing of the document that established the framework for a federal government that has been in existence for more than two centuries.
"Since 1787, the Constitution has been the supreme law of the United States," said Carolyn Key, the National Society Daughters of the American Revolution Constitution Week chairwoman for the seventh year. "I think it is every citizen’s responsibility to have at least read what the laws are so we know what we can and cannot do as an American citizen. Our children need to know what the laws are, too. The main purpose of Constitution Week is to educate the students in the knowledge that there are rules every citizen must follow, and if you don’t like a law, how to change it properly."
Schools, organizations, governments and businesses in Bartow County will observe the annual celebration with a number of activities designed to encourage residents to focus their attention on a document that has maintained their freedom and protected their inalienable rights since it was signed Sept. 17, 1787.
The weeklong event also is aimed at helping students learn more about the principles on which the United States was founded.
"In the United States, the one single thing uniting all Americans together is the United States Constitution," state Constitution Week Vice Chairwoman Amy Nation said. "Our Constitution ensures equal rights and freedoms for all citizens. It is important to educate ourselves on these rights and freedoms because our Constitution places the power of government in the hands of the citizens. As citizens, we also have an inherent responsibility to uphold the Constitution so future generations are guaranteed their rights and freedoms."
Nation also said it's important for Georgians to value the Constitution — the oldest self-government document still in use — since Georgia was one of the original 13 colonies and was the fourth state to ratify it.
"Over the centuries, Georgia has upheld the Constitution and celebrated the principles of freedom upon which our nation was founded," she said. "It is important for citizens to continue to honor patriots of our past, support patriots of the present and inspire patriots of the future."
The tradition of celebrating the signing of the Constitution began in 1955, when the NSDAR petitioned Congress to designate the week of Sept. 17-23 each year as Constitution Week, according to a press release.
Congress adopted the resolution, and President Dwight D. Eisenhower signed Public Law No. 915 on Aug. 2, 1956.
The celebration’s goals are threefold: to encourage the study of the historical events that led to the framing of the Constitution in September 1787; to inform people of the significance of the document, which is the basis of the country’s great heritage and the foundation of the American way of life; and to emphasize U.S. citizens’ responsibility to uphold, protect, defend and preserve the Constitution.
Though the official national observance doesn't start until Monday, the NSDAR's Etowah chapter began preparing for it two weeks ago.
"The Etowah chapter is extremely busy the whole month of September with coordinating activities for Constitution Week," Key said. "The month starts off by decorating all three Bartow County libraries in Constitution Week memorabilia. To make our communities aware, we send Constitution proclamations to all Bartow County mayors and the county commissioner for signatures."
But probably the biggest participants are all the schools in Bartow County and Cartersville, Excel Christian Academy and home-school groups.
"Just [Wednesday], I dressed as Abigail Adams and visited four elementary schools' fourth-graders and one home-school group," Key said.
The chairwoman said she is giving each school Constitution Minutes to read during morning announcements and a Constitution Rock to hide on Constitution Day Monday — the finder of each will win a prize — and is inviting the students to attend the official 1776 Patriots on the Square kickoff Saturday from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. in Friendship Plaza in downtown Cartersville.
Hosted by the Etowah chapter and the Cartersville Downtown Development Authority, the free event will give the public a chance to learn more about the Revolutionary War era, Key said.
"We have actors in costumes portraying known and unknown patriots," she said, noting some of them will make the school visits with her. "During 1776 Patriots on the Square, I will step into the shoes of the patriot spy Anna Strong. She was part of the Culper Spy Ring. I will demonstrate how she sent messages undetected during the Revolutionary War. Gen. George Washington only knew her as No. 355. It wasn’t until after the war he found out her real name."
Other historical figures who will be portrayed include George and Martha Washington, Benjamin Franklin, Paul Revere, Esther de Berdt Reed, the Rev. John Wesley, Nancy Hart, Margaret Corbin, Button Gwinnett, George Walton, Lyman Hall, Abigail Adams and Gen. Jean-Baptiste Rochambeau.
Key added Bartow was the first county in Georgia to "allow a Constitution Week event in the downtown area, with actors portraying patriots" from 1776.
"We have received nothing but positive responses," she said. "[DDA Manager] Lillie Reed, the city manager [Tamara Brock], Mayor Matt Santini, Commissioner Steve Taylor and the local media have all been supportive. I hope one day to see actors all over Georgia educating the children in a fun, hands-on way about our Constitution and the founding patriots."
She said she is always looking for people "of every ethnic group to portray the many unknown patriots that helped build our nation's foundation."
"Our history is rich in personalities too important to leave unknown," she said. "All our actors are volunteers that may change each year, and I appreciate their time and effort in helping with this event."
The Etowah chapter also is asking all residents and businesses to fly their American flags next week.