What is Constitution Day? A History Lesson

September 17, 2015

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Constitution Day
Photograph of Jefferson High School Marching Colonials Performing on the Steps of the National Archives Building on Constitution Day, 1974.tif

Jefferson High School Marching Colonials performing at the National Archives Building on Constitution Day, 1974
Official name Constitution Day and Citizenship Day
Observed by United States
Celebrations Constitution Day and Citizenship Day commemorate the formation and signing on September 17, 1787, of the Constitution and recognize all who, by coming of age or by naturalization, have become citizens.[1]
Date nearest weekday to September 17
2014 date Wednesday, September 17
2015 date Thursday, September 17
2016 date Friday, September 16 (observed)
2017 date Monday, September 18 (observed)
Frequency annual
Related to I am an American Day

Constitution Day (or Citizenship Day) is an American federal observance that recognizes the adoption of the United States Constitution and those who have become U.S. citizens. It is normally observed on September 17, the day in 1787 that delegates to the Constitutional Convention signed the document in Philadelphia.[2]

When Constitution Day falls on a weekend or on another holiday, schools and other institutions observe the holiday on an adjacent weekday.[3]

The law establishing the present holiday was created in 2004 with the passage of an amendment by Senator Robert Byrd to the Omnibus spending bill of 2004.[4] Before this law was enacted, the holiday was known as “Citizenship Day”. In addition to renaming the holiday “Constitution Day and Citizenship Day,” the act mandates that all publicly funded educational institutions, and all federal agencies, provide educational programming on the history of the American Constitution on that day.[5] In May 2005, the United States Department of Education announced the enactment of this law and that it would apply to any school receiving federal funds of any kind.[3] This holiday is not observed by granting time off work for federal employees.

Universities and colleges nationwide have created “U.S. Constitution and Citizenship Weeks” in order to meet the requirements of the law. For example, the Milwaukee School of Engineering (MSOE) has created a celebration week that includes “Constitution Trivia Contests”, distribution of free copies of the U.S. Constitution, a campus & community fair (in which volunteer and community groups can share information with students), a web page with facts and links related to the Constitution and history of the United States. MSOE has also distributed thousands of free “Presidential quote” T-shirts to all students on campus.[6]

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