Citizenship Day and Constitution Day
September 17th marks Constitution Day and Citizenship Day. Two important assets which shape the structure and integrity of the United States. But, how did those days come to be? In today’s blog, we’ll touch upon the rich history of these markers. Plus, reflect on the right and responsibilities of being a US citizen.
What is Citizenship and Constitution Day?
On September 17th, 1787, the Founding Fathers signed the US Constitution. For over 200 years, it has served as the the supreme law of the land. In fact, along with the Bill of Right and other amendments, this document defines US government and guarantees the rights of its people. The day celebrates the democracy of the country and recognises those who have, and want to have, it’s citizenship.
While Iowa schools first recognised Constitution Day in 1991, it wasn’t until 1917 that a committee formed to promote the day. Initiated by the Sons of the American Revolution, it included notable and influential members. In fact, the organisation itself comprised of men whose ancestors fought in the War of Independence. It describes its purpose as maintaining and extending:
- the institutions of American freedom
- an appreciation for true patriotism
- a respect for our national symbols
- the value of American citizenship
- the unifying force of “e pluribus unum” – out of many, one
Citizenship Day, on the other hand, owes its appearance to Hungarian immigrant Mrs A.B. (Clara) Vadja. In 1940, a day was set aside to recognise all those who have attained the status of citizenship and the history of such a feat.
Every year, the current President of the United States addresses the public in regard to these two monumental days. This year, Biden touched about his administration’s promises and commitments to the American people, and his understanding on what it means to be American: never giving up on the dream.
“I have often said that America is the only Nation founded on an idea. Though we have never fully lived up to it, we have never walked away from it. We have never stopped striving to fulfill the founding promise of our Nation — that all of us are created equal and deserve to be treated equally throughout our lives.”– Joe Biden, White House Statement, September 16, 2021
What It Means to be a Citizen
The US is country of diverse individuals and communities: some of which were born here and some who emigrated over either generations ago or recently. To be a US citizen you must either be:
- Born in US or its territories (including DC, Guam, Puerto Rice, the Northern Mariana Islands, and the US Virgin Island.
- Gain citizenship through naturalisation — a process which involves showing knowledge of US institutions, history, and rights.
The first concept of citizenship began in colonial times as a relation between people working cooperatively to solve local problems and participating in decision-making. Nowadays, it is less defined by this participation, and more seen as a legal relation with accompanying rights and privileges.
But, what does it mean to be a US citizen?
First, you have the right to:
- Live and work.
- Enter and leave the US.
- Stand for public office. However, in order to be President, you have to be “a natural born Citizen”.
- Apply for federal employment.
Also, your duties include:
- Jury duty.
- Military participation if conscription comes into order.
- Paying taxes both federal and state.
- Responding to the decennial census.
Additionally, your benefits include:
- Protection outside the US.
- Increased ability to sponsor relatives living abroad.
- Investing in US real property.
- Transmission of US citizenship to children born abroad.
- Protection from deportation.