'Appreciating the Constitution'

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This month marks the 222nd anniversary of the signing of the United States Constitution. On September 17, 1787, 39 men from 12 states signed one of the most important documents in our nation’s history, creating the basis for our freedoms and self-government.

A recent survey revealed that fewer than half of all Americans can name the three branches of government, and 46% of Americans between the ages of 25 and 34 fail basic civic literacy tests. More students know that the city matching the zip code “90210” is Beverly Hills than where the Constitution was signed – in Philadelphia.

These statistics are alarming. With so many important issues facing our country, we must do more to encourage our children to learn about the importance of the Constitution and how our government works.

Recently, school children from across the country came to the U.S. Capitol to see government in action. Ten 6th graders from a local elementary school visited my office and asked questions about the Constitution. With the encouragement of their teachers, these children were learning about this important document and our government, and how both affect them.

One student stood out in particular. She asked me what rights are protected by the First Amendment. I explained the five protected rights to her – freedom of speech, religion, press, assembly and petitioning the government. As she continued to quiz my staff and me further, her excitement noticeably grew.

Many Americans take the rights established by the Constitution for granted, but we must remember they were hard-earned. The men who signed the Constitution did so only after risking their lives and winning the Revolutionary War. Today, thousands of Tennessee’s National Guardsmen are fighting alongside other members of our armed forces in Iraq and Afghanistan to defend the same freedoms and rights established in our Constitution 222 years ago.

This month, we should focus on passing this lesson to our children by encouraging them to learn about the importance of the Constitution. Knowledge of this document is essential to understanding the foundation and history of our country.
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