Mr. BURRIS. Madam President, in 1790, Secretary of State Thomas Jefferson became the first government official to perform the essential duties laid out in Article One Section Two of the U.S. Constitution.
He oversaw a team of marshals, who fanned out across all 13 United States to conduct the very first U.S. census.
In those days, it took quite a long time to gather an accurate count and certify the results.
But, in many ways, that first census laid the cornerstone of our democracy.
It codified the principle that our system of government depends upon accurate representation of the people.
And, even today, that's exactly what the census is all about.
It determines the size of the House of Representatives, and ensures that congressional districts and electoral votes are distributed accurately.
It helps target Federal funding for schools, hospitals, community centers, infrastructure projects, and a whole host of other programs.
In short, it helps our government work the way it is intended in each community, so everyone's voice can be heard.
It is about nothing less than who we are as a country.
It is about enfranchisement, and civic duty, and ensuring the success of the American system of self-government.
That is why our Constitution mandates that the census take place every 10 years.
And that is why, 220 years after Thomas Jefferson started this tradition, we are once again asking all Americans to stand up and be counted.
Our country has grown by leaps and bounds since Jefferson's time. Making sure we get an accurate count can be a complicated process, but it has never been more important, especially for low-income and minority communities, which are in the greatest need for the resources that will be allocated based on this census.
The problem is that many of these communities also have low participation rates--so they are often undercounted, and receive less funding than they deserve.
That is why we need make a special effort to reach out to these communities.
We need to let everyone know how important it is to participate, so we can get a clear, accurate snapshot.
Fortunately, unlike in Jefferson's day, the 2010 census will not take several months to complete--it will take about 10 minutes.
This year's form is one of the shortest in history--and it bears a close resemblance to the original questionnaire that was used in 1790.
Filling it out will be quick and easy--but it will make a world of difference.
I ask my fellow Americans to join me in doing their civic duty, as required by the Constitution. Take 10 minutes to fill out and return this census form. It could be the most productive 10 minutes of the decade. It will make your vote count for more on election day. It will make sure hospitals, fire departments, and police departments are up to the task of serving your community. It will secure adequate funding for roads, bridges, rail lines, and other important infrastructure. And it will help us reaffirm the unwavering commitment shared by all Americans--to a representative government--a
government of the people, by the people, and for the people; a government that serves not only the best interests of this great country but of the world.
I yield the floor and suggest the absence of a quorum.
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