In 2002, George W. Bush, President of the United States, followed in the footsteps of his predecessors from Bill Clinton back to Franklin Roosevelt in declaring December 15 to be Bill of Rights Day.

FDR started the practice in 1941 when he first declared the observance on the one hundred fiftieth anniversary of the ratification of the first ten amendments to the U.S. Constitution. Unfortunately, neither he nor any of his successors have seen fit to make the day a Federal holiday, which a cynic would ascribe to a lust for power being nearer and dearer to our Presidents' hearts than is any concern for faith to the country's founding principles.

Going back at least to the reign of Jimmy Carter, the presidential proclamations of Bill of Rights Day have included a proclamation also of Human Rights Day on December 10, situating both in Human Rights Week (December 10 - 16). Unfortunately, their statements generally speak more to the United Nations' Universal Declaration of Human Rights (the signing of which on December 10, 1948 is the basis for Human Rights Day) than to the Bill of Rights. Indeed, President Carter (in a quote that I saw on Google and just spent a half hour fruitlessly looking for again) mentioned that the two were "very similar". I say "unfortunate", because unlike the Declaration, which is a touchy-feely document essentially saying that it would be great if people respected each other, the Bill of Rights derives its now mostly-forgotten esteem from the fact that it is the law of the land: its provisions explicitly forbid the government from treading upon the rights of the people (as well as enjoining it from other actions which it is now long accustomed to indulging in).

It's up to Us, the People, to ensure that the real meaning of the Bill of Rights is taught to our children, on Bill of Rights Day and every day, lest it be forgotten.

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