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Proclamation 6173—Citizenship Day and Constitution Week, 1990

August 28, 1990

By the President of the United States of America

A Proclamation

Well over a century ago, while reflecting upon the course of our national journey, Daniel Webster observed: "We may be tossed upon an ocean where we can see no land -- nor, perhaps, the sun or stars. But there is a chart and a compass for us to study, to consult, and to obey. That chart is the Constitution." If we are to remain a free, strong, and prosperous nation as we navigate ever new and uncharted territory in domestic and foreign affairs, every American must have a thorough understanding of our Constitution, its history, and the timeless principles it enshrines.

During the long, hot summer of 1787, the 55 delegates to the Federal Convention engaged in fervent study, debate, compromise, and prayer as they shaped a system of government for our fledgling Nation. Recognizing the God-given rights and dignity of the individual and determined to secure the freedom he has envisioned for each of us, they carefully crafted our Constitution, dedicating this Nation to the ideals of liberty, justice, and equality and providing for the separation of powers that has served us so well. Today, more than 200 years after it was written, our Constitution -- and the Bill of Rights later added to it -- is not only a shining testament to the wisdom and foresight of its Framers but also a light of hope and inspiration to the world.

In this 4th year of the Constitution's bicentennial, we commemorate the establishment of the Nation's judicial system. Article III of the Constitution defines the powers of the judiciary; however, it was the First Congress under the Constitution that gave it form and substance. The Judiciary Act of 1789 provided for a Supreme Court and created the office of the Attorney General. It also established a Federal judicial structure of 13 district courts and three circuit courts and defined their jurisdiction. When the Supreme Court met for the first time in February 1790, the dual judicial system of State and Federal courts was firmly established. Then, as now, State courts conducted most of the Nation's judicial business. The Federal courts have the authority to decide only those cases that involve the violation of Federal law or as otherwise specified by the Constitution.

This Nation's independent judiciary, dedicated to upholding the rule of law and the rights of individuals, has reaffirmed time and again the inestimable value of our Constitution. Asserting that no person shall be "deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law" and guaranteeing every American "equal protection of the laws," the Constitution has remained a powerful governing tool and an effective instrument of justice to this day. The great American jurist, John Marshall Harlan, underscored the significance of its guarantees of equal justice under the law when he wrote: "Our Constitution is color-blind, and neither knows nor tolerates classes among citizens. In respect of civil rights, all citizens are equal before the law. The humblest is the peer of the most powerful."

This week, we celebrate our Constitution and its promise of liberty, equality, and justice for all. In times of doubt and decision, generations of American leaders have looked to this great document for guidance; generations of patriots have labored and sacrificed to defend the principles it sets forth. If we are to keep faith with them, if we are to continue to enjoy the blessings of freedom and self-government, each of us must understand our rights and responsibilities as citizens.

Each of us has not only the right but also the obligation to become educated and informed; to vote; and to participate at all levels of government. However, as President Theodore Roosevelt well knew, there is more to responsible citizenship. "The good citizen," he once observed, "is the man who, whatever his wealth or poverty, strives manfully to do his duty to himself, to his family, to his neighbor, [and] to the State; who is incapable of the baseness which manifests itself either in arrogance or in envy, but who while demanding justice for himself is no less scrupulous to do justice to others." Responsible citizenship begins with being a loving and responsible parent, an eager and attentive student, and a just and caring neighbor.

As citizens of the United States, we are not just the beneficiaries of our Founding Fathers' great experiment in self-government -- we are also its custodians. Thus, as we observe Citizenship Day and Constitution Week, we do well to reflect upon our Constitution and its history, as well as our role in upholding the vision of freedom and justice it enshrines.

The Congress, by joint resolution of February 29, 1952 designated September 17 as "Citizenship Day" in commemoration of the signing of the Constitution and in recognition of all who, by birth or by naturalization, have attained the status of citizenship, and authorized the President to issue annually a proclamation calling upon officials of the government to display the flag on all government buildings on that day. Also, by joint resolution of August 2, 1956 the Congress designated the week beginning September 17 and ending September 23 of each year as "Constitution Week" in recognition of the historic importance of the Constitution and the significant role it plays in our lives today.

Now, Therefore, I, George Bush, President of the United States of America, do hereby proclaim September 17, 1990, as Citizenship Day, and call upon appropriate government officials to display the flag of the United States on all government buildings. I urge Federal, State, and local officials, as well as leaders of civic, social, and educational organizations, to conduct ceremonies and programs to commemorate the occasion.

Furthermore, I proclaim the week beginning September 17 and ending September 23, 1990, as Constitution Week, and I urge all Americans to observe that week with appropriate ceremonies and activities.

In Witness Whereof, I have hereunto set my hand this twenty-eighth day of August, in the year of our Lord nineteen hundred and ninety, and of the Independence of the United States of America the two hundred and fifteenth.

Signature of George Bush


George Bush, Proclamation 6173—Citizenship Day and Constitution Week, 1990 Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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