|The White House
President George W. Bush
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For Immediate Release
Office of Lynne Cheney
September 17, 2003
Mrs. Cheney Hosts Constitution Day at the National Constitution Center
National Constitution Center
Lynne Cheney, author, scholar and wife of Vice President Dick Cheney celebrated Constitution Day here at the National Constitution Center today with 200 elementary school students from Philadelphia schools. Constitution Day: Telling America's Story is Mrs. Cheney's second annual Constitution Day event. The inaugural event took place at the Vice President's Residence in Washington, D.C. in 2002. This year, students commemorated this important day in history just two blocks from Independence Hall, the location of the signing of the U.S. Constitution 216 years ago today (September 17, 1787).
"The Constitution is not only one of our nation's founding documents, it is one of the most influential documents ever written," Mrs. Cheney said. "It's a real privilege to celebrate the anniversary of the Constitution at the National Constitution Center and to help bring the story of this remarkable document to the next generation."
The two-hour event for third, fourth and fifth graders from James Dobson Elementary, Robert Pollock Elementary, and Thomas Mifflin Elementary schools included a welcoming program in the Grand Hall Lobby led by Mrs. Cheney. U.S. Secretary of Education Rod Paige joined Mrs. Cheney in leading students in the Pledge of Allegiance and spoke to kids about history education. Mrs. Cheney talked about the importance of the founding documents and historical figures throughout history.
National Constitution Center President and CEO Joseph M. Torsella and National Park Service Superintendent Mary Bomar welcomed students to the Constitution Center during the program.
"We are pleased that Mrs. Cheney and these students are here to celebrate Constitution Day with us at the National Constitution Center," said Torsella. "This event speaks directly to the mission of the Center - to teach 'We, the People' about the document that lays out a blueprint for our democracy, powerfully affects our daily lives, and relies on us all to uphold and preserve it."
Mrs. Cheney and students viewed the Constitution Center's multimedia production "Freedom Rising," which tells the story of the Constitution and "We the People" from Revolutionary times to today. Mrs. Cheney and students then enjoyed several interactive displays in the "The American Experience" exhibit, a permanent exhibit that tells the story of the Constitution through 100 interactive and multimedia exhibits, photographs, text and artifacts.
Encouraging young people across the nation to learn about America's history has long been a priority of Mrs. Cheney's. In 2001, she announced plans for a celebration of Constitution Day (September 17) each year to highlight the importance of learning about America's Founding Fathers and documents, as well as, the inspirational figures who have since helped our nation live up to the ideals contained within the Constitution.
"There are few things more important than teaching children the history of our great nation," Mrs. Cheney said, "and there are many ways to do it, from visiting historic sites and museums to reading books to children about the story of America."
Results from the latest National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) test in U.S. History showed that 33% of 4th graders performed below the "Basic" level, meaning they are unable to identify the most familiar people, events, ideas, and documents in American history. For students in 12th grade, performance on the test was worse, as 57% were unable to reach the "Basic" level of achievement.
The Constitution Day program closed with the signing of individual copies of the U.S. Constitution provided to each student at a signing party outdoors on the Constitution Center's terrace. Mrs. Cheney, along with special guests (actors) George Washington, James Madison, John Adams, Benjamin Franklin and American historical figures Frederick (actual great-great-grandson of Douglass) and Anna Douglass, Abigail Adams and Amelia Earhart joined students for the party. Students visited with the founding fathers and others while listening to the Fife & Drum Corps and enjoying lemonade and flag-decorated cookies.
On September 17, 1787, the final draft of the Constitution was signed in Philadelphia. Although it would be almost a year before the Constitution was ratified by the required nine out of thirteen states (June 21, 1788), this date marks a milestone in our country's history.
Lynne Cheney is the author of seven books including two children's books on American history, America: A Patriotic Primer and A is for Abigail: An Almanac of Amazing American Women. She is a senior fellow at the American Enterprise Institute in Washington, D.C. and wife of Vice President Dick Cheney.
The National Constitution Center, an independent, non-profit, non-partisan institution dedicated to honoring and explaining the Constitution, opened on Philadelphia's historic Independence Mall on July 4, 2003. It is the first of its kind - a modern, interactive, and exciting center in which people from all walks of life are able to learn about the profound impact the Constitution has had in American history and continues to have in all Americans' daily lives.