CONSTITUTION DAY -- (Senate - September 17, 2008)
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As a result of legislation enacted in 2005, more students across the country are receiving instruction on the Constitution, civics, and American history in their schools today. To become responsible citizens, students need to know that the Constitution is not about the 39 men who signed it. It is a vital document that shapes events today and in the future. Instilling an understanding of the American ideals of liberty, justice, equality, and civic responsibility should be a central task in every school, every day.
It should encourage the type of civic-mindedness displayed by the actions of community-based organizations and private citizens who rushed to aid victims of Hurricane Katrina and the September 11 terrorist attacks. The long-term health of our democracy and America's standing in the world depend on our own understanding of our past.
In the reauthorization of the No Child Left Behind Act next year, we can strengthen our commitment to history and civics education, and encourage them to be integrated into all subject areas, extracurricular activities, and service-based learning.
Our Nation's Founders understood that education was critical to the strength of our democracy. As James Madison said to Thomas Jefferson after the Constitution was written, ``Educate and inform the whole mass of the people ..... They are the only sure reliance for the preservation of our liberty.''
As we commemorate the anniversary of the ratification of the Constitution, those words are especially timely, because they remind us that their work alone cannot sustain American democracy. Our democracy depends heavily on enlightened and engaged citizens, and high-quality civic education is the best way to ensure that its fundamental principles will continue to guide America for the next 221 years, as we and future generations do our best ``to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity.'' May it always be so.