- Joe Graviss
Legislative Update - September 17th, Constitution Day
Independence Day may get most of the attention when it comes to celebrating our country’s founding, but there’s a good argument to be made that September 17th is just as important.
It was on that day, 232 years ago this week, that the U.S. Constitution was formally signed, putting in place a charter that has guided our nation ever since and which has been a model for others around the world. In fact, ours is now the oldest and, at 4,400 words, the shortest among the major countries.
Interestingly, the two men most responsible for the Declaration of Independence – Thomas Jefferson and John Adams – were not there in Philadelphia to sign the Constitution. Jefferson was in France, while Adams was in Great Britain.
Over the years, this anniversary has become a time to pay tribute to citizenship and to recognize the rewards and responsibilities that come with it.
Studies show that there is still much work to be done in this area. One of the more troubling ones found that only a third of adults in the United States can name all three branches of government and another third can’t name any.
Voting turnout, meanwhile, remains relatively low, with nearly half of the country’s voting-age population not casting a ballot last year. On the bright side, the voting percentage did mark a 40-year high for a midterm election, a hopeful sign since 2014’s number marked a 40-year low.
There has been considerable work in recent years to make sure Kentuckians have a deeper understanding and appreciation of civics. Several universities across the state have dedicated centers focused solely on this issue, and, thanks to a law the General Assembly approved in 2017, high school seniors now have to correctly answer at least 60 out of 100 questions in this subject to graduate.
This year, some organizations are using Constitution Day to highlight the importance of 2020’s Census. I’m doing several Public Service Announcements and letters to editors around it as well. The Kentucky Community and Technical College System (KCTCS) is hosting several events on its campuses, while the Kentucky Extension Homemakers Association has created a quilt featuring all 120 counties that will be unveiled next week at the National Quilt Museum in Paducah. It will be featured at libraries and extension offices across the state until next year’s Kentucky State Fair.
Kentucky Youth Advocates is offering teachers a chance to win $500 for their school if they use the U.S. Census Bureau’s free Statistics in Schools activities in the classroom next week. Interested teachers can learn more at kyyouth.org.
Speaking of schools, the National Conference of State Legislatures has long used next week to promote its “America’s Legislators Back to School Program.” Most students in Kentucky visit the Capitol at least once on a field trip, but this program – which began as a single day but now covers most of the school year – flips that by bringing state government to the students.
If you are a teacher or school administrator who think this would be beneficial, I would be glad to set up a time to stop by. You can reach me by email at firstname.lastname@example.org, and the toll-free message line for all legislators is 800-372-7181. For those with a hearing impairment, the number is 800-896-0305.
Thanks for all you do and holler anytime.