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Know your Constitution

September 17, 2012
The Daily News

This week is a special week in America.

Today marks the 225th anniversary of the adoption of the Constitution of the United States of America by the Constitutional Convention, and this is Constitution Week.

On August 2, 1956, Congress requested that the president of the United States proclaim the week beginning Sept. 17 and ending Sept. 23 of each year as Constitution Week.

"This week, we reflect on the basic rights and responsibilities of citizenship, the founding documents from which they were drawn, and the extraordinary legacy of progress they have enabled," President Obama said. "Let us forever uphold the ideals the Framers enshrined in our Constitution, and let us never cease in our pursuit of the more perfect Union they imagined so many years ago."

Of the written national constitutions, the U.S. Constitution is the oldest and shortest.

It is important that Americans know the rights that are guaranteed to them by the constitution.

Freedoms can be easily taken away if the people don't know they have a right to them.

Unfortunately, most Americans are clueless when it comes to their democracy.

Sure, people watch the political conventions, but do they know their rights?

Can you name more than an one of the fundamental freedoms recognized in the First Amendment?

Don't be embarrassed if you cannot.

According to a poll by the McCormick Tribune Freedom Museum, barely a quarter of Americans could.

In fact, more Americans could name the characters on The Simpsons than could recall the provisions of the First Amendment.

Three-fourths of Americans recognized two of the product brands connected to five popular ad slogans, while only 28 percent could name two or more freedoms cited in the First Amendment.

Those freedoms, by the way, are freedom of religion, freedom of speech and the press, freedom to assemble, and freedom to petition the government.

The poll, meanwhile, revealed Americans' ignorance of their government.

Nearly one-fourth believed that "the First Amendment granted them the right to own and raise pets."

Another 36 percent believed the First Amendment gave women the right to vote.

These results confirm an earlier Gallup poll that found that 70 percent of Americans did not know what the First Amendment was, or what it dealt with.

And a American Bar Association poll found that only 33 percent of Americans surveyed knew what the Bill of Rights was. (Answer: The first 10 Amendments of the U.S. Constitution.)

Yet another survey found that 45 percent of adult respondents believed that "from each according to his abilities, to each according to his needs" was in the U.S. Constitution.

That actually is Karl Marx's communist principle.

Still another survey found that 36 percent of Americans believe the right to a public education is guaranteed by the First Amendment.

This is a dangerous, and troublesome, situation.

"The less Americans know about freedoms, the more they are likely to erode without our notice," the McCormick Foundation said.

A 1937 Senate report said that "the Constitution ... is the people's charter of the powers granted those who govern them."

It is not the other way around. The government did not grant us these rights.

Rather, our forefathers allowed the government to exist only within the framework of the Constitution.

Sept. 17-23 has been designated as Constitution Week.

The constitution is the highest law in the land.

As citizens of the United States, we should study it and understand it.



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