September 17 is Constitution Day/Citizenship Day, commemorating the September 17, 1787, signing of the U.S. Constitution. In recognition, Congress has mandated that every educational institution receiving federal funding hold an educational program about this seminal document.
“Most of you are no doubt aware of the highly successful musical Hamilton, which tells the captivating story of the first Treasury Secretary, Alexander Hamilton, and our nation’s founding,” Secretary of Education John King said when commenting on Constitution Day.
“Among his many other contributions, Hamilton wrote most of the Federalist Papers, which argued in favor of the Constitution, something not everyone agreed was needed. The genius of the play is that it reminds us that well-meaning people with very different perspectives on how we should govern ourselves in a democracy were able to compromise and find a way to move the nation forward.”
About the Constitution, Alexander Hamilton once said, “I am convinced that this is the safest course for your liberty, your dignity, and your happiness.”
Hamilton also credited hard work and perseverance to his success, something that is applicable to all students: “Men give me credit for some genius. All the genius I have lies in this; when I have a subject in hand, I study it profoundly. Day and night it is before me. My mind becomes pervaded with it. Then the effort that I have made is what people are pleased to call the fruit of genius. It is the fruit of labor and thought.”
For those familiar with the soundtrack to the musical Hamilton, “Non-Stop” gives us a reason to study and reflect on the Constitution this day and throughout the year:
To assist students and educators in their studies, the National Archives and Records Administration offers key resources, such as “The Constitution at Work,” a match game connecting primary resources to constitutional articles, and “Exploring the U.S. Constitution,” an eBook that explores the roots of the three branches of government. Likewise, free online resources are available from the Library of Congress, the National Endowment for the Humanities, and the U.S. Senate. This year is also the 225th anniversary of the passage of the Bill of Rights — the first 10 amendments to the Constitution.
As Secretary King tells us, “It reminds us that understanding our history helps us understand our present and also prepare for the future. And, most relevant to us here, it reminds us that all of our children must receive quality education—rich with history, civics, arts and sciences — if they are to be engaged and knowledgeable participants in this great and evolving form of self-government.”
Anthony Fowler is an Interagency Liaison at the U.S. Department of Education.