Constitution Day

Federal holidays contain something for everyone. The Fourth of July has fireworks and hot dogs, Thanksgiving Day has turkey, and Labor Day-well, Labor Day gives us a day off.

Government holidays are usually seen as vacation time. The symbolism of these holidays is missing among the excitement of Christmas presents, Valentine’s Day candy and Halloween costumes.

A newly mandated holiday, Constitution Day, changes all that. On Sept. 17, all schools receiving federal funds must hold programs to honor the anniversary of the Constitution’s signing. PSU participated in a statewide live video broadcast from the University of Oregon Law School, even though school was not currently in session.

As a scholastic graduate student who feels empty without a pocket Constitution, I’m ecstatic for a holiday like Constitution Day. I consider myself to be a progressive liberal, but that doesn’t mean that I don’t enjoy the historical significance of the most important American document.

I’m the kind of person who wishes that we’d celebrate Abraham Lincoln’s birthday separately from George Washington’s – not only because of the extra day off, but out of historical respect. Although they weren’t perfect men, they are important historical figures in American history. And it never hurts to have an extra day off, especially in the middle of winter, when waking up on time is almost unthinkable.

I never realized that people weren’t interested in politics or history until I took a history 101 class as an undergraduate and saw several of my peers sleeping. To me, this was unacceptable for several reasons. I was a grumpy, bitter upperclassman needing a three-hour liberal arts class to graduate, which eliminated sleep as a recreational activity. If I couldn’t sleep in class, no one should sleep in class.

Another reason why I think Constitution Day is good is partly academic snobbery. It’s sad to see that some students don’t care about history or politics. I don’t agree with the “USA: Love It or Leave It” or “Support our President” bumper stickers. However, I do agree with comments like “If You Aren’t Outraged, You Aren’t Paying Attention” and “Dissent Is Patriotic.” These sayings provide more of an insightful knowledge, which seems to be missing in the academic communities.

Granted, my alma mater was a small state school on the border of Texas, limiting the amount of progressive, well-read students. Portland is a more educated community, and I’d like to think that more students are interested in at least a small amount of American history or politics.

I do know that there are still some holdouts that are in college to please their parents. On a base level, Constitution Day would hopefully provide a way for these dispassionate students to become academic dynamos who don’t irritate the curmudgeon in the back of class.

It’s easy to argue against Constitution Day in the current political climate. For some people, the word “Constitution” automatically brings conservative, religious nuts to mind. This is probably because of the Constitution Party, a group that vows “to restore our government to its Constitutional limits and our law to its Biblical foundation.”

Another reason for equating the Constitution with the right-wing is found in the judicial branch. One of the big issues in the 2004 election was the likelihood of several Supreme Court nominations, as well as other federal judicial nominations. A buzz phrase at the time was “activist judge.” These “activist judges” were liberals who didn’t strictly interpret the Constitution as the conservative judges did. George W. Bush vowed not to nominate any activist judges to any of the high courts.

I have a hard time believing that being an activist is a bad thing. The Constitution binds all government together, but it is hard to strictly interpret a 216-year-old document. I have a hard time understanding things that were written 16 years ago. (For example, has anyone watched “Dream A Little Dream” lately?). Add 200 years to that, along with the Industrial Revolution, the widespread introduction of technology, the massive creation of the internet, as well as other groundbreaking inventions and political transformations.

It is easy to criticize Constitution Day. It sounds conservative. It sounds hokey. After all, when was the last time you thought of the Constitution outside of school or regarding your rights for a felony court date?

These are all shallow reasons against the historical celebration. Constitution Day should be commended for what it really is: a chance for academic nerds, jocks, professionals, transients, and all other Americans to appreciate the one document that ties us all together.