Embrace Constitution, DAR members say|[09/16/07]

Published 12:00 am Monday, September 17, 2007

Linda Davis thinks that “we the people” often take for granted the rich heritage and significance of American history — including the close calls.

That’s why Davis, regent of the local chapter of Daughters of the American Revolution, and group member Karen Calnan have joined forces with several other members and community leaders to sponsor a ceremony recognizing the 220th anniversary of the signing of the U.S. Constitution, which was the nation’s second attempt at a founding document — a law upon which the design and function of government and all other laws would rest.

“I really think people don’t really understand the significance of our Constitution,” she said. “There are just so very many interesting facts. Three of the members who wrote a significant amount of the Constitution refused to sign it. It’s an absolute miracle that this document ever came together.”

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Today’s ceremony, set for 3:30 p.m. on the steps of the Old Court House Museum on Cherry Street, will feature songs, speeches, presentations and close with the ringing of the courthouse bell at 4 p.m. — all in honor of the document signed in 1787 and ratified by nine of the 13 original states over the next 18 months. Some of the votes were very close.

“We would like for everybody to wear red, white and blue and they can bring their own little handbell,” said Davis. “We would love for everyone to come and celebrate and share. Vicksburg Mayor Laurence Leyens, local Boy Scout troops and others are expected.

The tradition of celebrating the Constitution was started by the DAR in 1955 when the group petitioned Congress to set aside this week annually to be dedicated to observing the significance of the Constitution. The measure was signed into law in 1956 by president Dwight Eisenhower.

Daughters of the American Revolution is the largest women’s patriotic organization in the world with more than 165,000 members across the United States and in 11 other countries.

“I think it’s very important that we understand our roots,” Davis said. “Our constitution is the oldest still in effect today,”

Davis, who has been involved with DAR since 1997, admits that initially, she knew very little about the early history of the U.S. herself. About 30 people are active in the Ashmead Chapter here.

Her teaching career continues to spur her interest in history, she said.

Another Constitution fact, says Davis, was “not one person were signed was satisfied with the whole document,” but “in the end, they signed it out of necessity. The only concept everyone agreed on was the concept of three branches of government.” The nation has made it work since, keeping individual freedoms unprecedented in human history.

People don’t have to belong to any group to begin to appreciate our rights and heritage as Americans. Indeed, the process can start with a few simple steps like reading the Constitution, the Bill of Rights and other historic documents, Davis said.