“There can be no daily democracy without daily citizenship.” Ralph Nader
Constitution Day — or Citizenship Day, as it is sometimes called — commemorates the historical signing of the constitution, and celebrates all citizens of the United States.
On September 17th, 1787, the delegates of the Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia adopted Jefferson’s work into law. This date was first observed in 1911, when Iowa wrote it into their school curriculum. Six years later, the Sons of the American Revolution created a committee to promote Constitution Day; Calvin Coolidge and John D. Rockefeller were both members.
Public awareness of the holiday didn’t increase until 1939, when Arthur Pine introduced the song “I am an American” across networks like NBC, Mutual, and ABC. It was meant to instill a sense of national pride in the people of America. He touted it as the theme of the New York World’s Fair, and had a local newspaper feature it. The idea became so popular that President Roosevelt officially named it “I am American Day,” and it was designated as the third Sunday in May. The U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service promoted it, and it even became the subject of a 16-minute feature film.
By 1949, 48 states had proclaimed an annual Constitution Day on September 17th. Congress followed suit, and moved “I am an American Day” to align with these celebrations, renaming it “Citizenship Day.”
Naturalized citizens of the U.S. often don’t think about their status as Americans. They grew up up with the opportunities afforded to us by the constitution. People who travel here from less fortunate backgrounds are excited to embrace a new life in America, and pursue their citizenship.
The American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA) commemorates this day by sponsoring a nationwide event every year to help legal permanent residents apply for U.S. citizenship. To learn more about their cause, visit:
Constitution Day’s illustrious backstory shouldn’t take away from the reason behind it; Roosevelt named it with the intention to recognize and honor every citizen of the United States. Today, appreciate the privilege you have in calling yourself an American citizen, and in sharing that privilege with people who come from all walks of life.