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President George W. Bush
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For Immediate Release
Office of Lynne Cheney
September 17, 2004
Mrs. Cheney Celebrates Constitution Day 2004: Telling America's Story
Gunston Hall Plantation
Highlights George Mason: Father of Americas Bill of Rights; A Delegate who Wouldnt Sign the Constitution
Lynne Cheney, author, scholar, and wife of Vice President Dick Cheney, today celebrated National Constitution Day with 200 elementary school students from Fairfax County Public Schools at Gunston Hall Plantation, the historic home of George Mason. Constitution Day 2004: Telling America's Story is Mrs. Cheney's third annual Constitution Day event honoring September 17, 1787, the day the Constitution was signed. In 2001, she announced plans for an annual celebration of Constitution Day 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. The inaugural event took place at the Vice President's Residence in 2002.
This year, students commemorated this important day in history at the home of George Mason, the founding father who would not sign the U.S. Constitution 217 years ago because it lacked a declaration of rights. Mrs. Cheney highlighted how George Mason's strong belief in protecting individual rights was instrumental in the eventual adoption of the Bill of Rights.
"I think it is vital to teach children about one of our nation's most influential documents and the people who shaped it." Mrs. Cheney said. "George Mason played a significant role in forming the Constitution as we know it today. By not signing the Constitution, he helped fashion America's Bill of Rights, which protects basic freedoms enjoyed today such as the right to free speech, peaceful assembly, and trial by jury."
The two-hour event with third graders from Bucknell, Gunston, and Ft. Belvoir Elementary schools included opening remarks by Mrs. Cheney and Gunston Hall Plantation Director David Reese at the entrance of the Mason home.
"George Mason constructed this elegant house and garden for his young family in 1755 and lived here for the remainder of his life," said Reese. "He was a successful planter, raised nine children, wrote influential documents such as the Virginia Declaration of Rights, and earned a reputation as one of the brilliant men of the Revolutionary era."
Mrs. Cheney then led the students in various activities throughout the Plantation, accompanied by historical figures (actors) George Mason, George Washington, James Madison, Thomas Jefferson, Patrick Henry, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, and Frederick Douglass. The activities were designed to teach students about life in the 18th-Century and included hearth cooking, quill penmanship, and colonial children's games. The students also had an opportunity to tour the Mason home and participate in an archeological excavation of the Plantation grounds.