EDITORIAL: Celebrate the Importance of American Freedom

By Trey Apffel

The Constitution is a crucial thread in the fabric of our country’s history. As former U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor once said, the Constitution changed world history “for the perpetual benefit of mankind. In 1787, no country in the world had ever allowed its citizens to select their own form of government, much less to select a democratic government.”

Although the Constitution was written long ago, the founding document still plays a significant role in our daily lives as it guarantees the precious liberties and fundamental rights for all U.S. citizens and puts “governance in the hands of the people.”

 In 2001, the Texas Legislature passed House Bill 1776, which established Celebrate Freedom Week. Texas public schools are encouraged to spend the week focusing on the importance of the Declaration of Independence and the U.S. Constitution, including the Bill of Rights, in their historical contexts. Local school districts honor Celebrate Freedom Week during the week of Sept. 17, Constitution Day, to commemorate the signing of the historic document in 1787.

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Celebrate Freedom Week with I Was the First!

This year, Celebrate Freedom Week is September 16-20. During this week, every social studies class in the State of Texas is required, under Texas Education Code, §29.907, to provide instruction regarding the intent, meaning, and importance of the Declaration of Independence and the U.S. Constitution (including the Bill of Rights) in their historical contexts.

To help Texas teachers, the State Bar of Texas has created a resource—I was the First. Vote for Me! This interactive, web-based program features animated historical firsts, including Benjamin Franklin, Abraham Lincoln, Thomas Jefferson, Susan B. Anthony, and others related to the American Revolution, U.S. Constitution, abolitionist movement, women’s suffrage, and more. In honor of Celebrate Freedom Week, and to help students learn the Declaration of Independence, these characters are featured in a special animation reciting a paragraph of the Declaration of Independence. Visit the website to listen and learn why these important people, and their contributions to American freedom, make them the most important first!