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
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.