Constitution Week: September 17 – 23, 2020
September 17 – 23, 2020 marks the 65th year the Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR) will celebrate Constitution Week. The DAR normally holds a traditional Ringing of the Bells on September 17th at 4 p.m. You might be wondering what the meaning is behind the Ringing of the Bells ceremony and why everyone rings a bell at 4 p.m. on September 17th. We ring the bells to celebrate the signing of the Constitution. On September 17, 1787, the delegates of the Constitutional Convention signed the Constitution. As the delegates were leaving the Pennsylvania State House at 4 pm, the bells were rung to signify the signing of the Constitution. New Bern’s DAR chapter, the Richard Dobbs Spaight Chapter, invites everyone to join in the celebration of The Ringing of the Bells on September 17th at 4 p.m. In light of the current COVID-19 pandemic, the chapter has decided that this year’s event will be virtual and everyone is asked to ring a virtual bell that has been posted on YouTube. If you wish to participate by ringing the virtual bell, you can search for the Constitution Week Richard Dobbs Spaight Playlist on YouTube and you will find the video for the bell. In addition to the bell video, you will find additional videos on the Constitution and the Bill of Rights on the playlist. If you wish to ring a traditional bell instead of the virtual bell, we encourage you to ring your bell at 4 pm on September 17th.
Traditionally, the Richard Dobbs Spaight Chapter visits the local schools and presents a program highlighting the US Constitution, but this year with public schools online, we have made changes to provide the information electronically. We emphasize the ties New Bern has to the Constitution. Did you know Richard Dobbs Spaight, born in New Bern, was one of the five North Carolina delegates to the Constitutional Convention? He was one of the three North Carolina delegates that signed the Constitution.
This year, local DAR members will also be hosting a Constitutional Week Bear Hunt in local neighborhoods. We encourage everyone to get outside and go on a Bear Hunt. The Bear Hunt posters includes a QR code that links to the bell ringing video so you can ring the bell for each Bear you find on your hunt. If you would like copies of the Bear Hunt posters you can print yourself and use in your neighborhood, you may email firstname.lastname@example.org to request a copy. There will also be posters in some of the local businesses that will include QR codes providing both local and national information about the Constitution. There are QR codes that will take you to Google Maps so you can visit the gravesites of Richard Dobbs Spaight and Gertrude Carraway. Some of the QR codes will take you to the videos posted on the playlist on YouTube or Google Maps for national landmarks. In addition, Constitution Week books will be donated to each New Bern and Havelock Little Free Libraries.
How did Constitution Week begin? In 1955, the President General of the DAR, New Bern’s very own Gertrude S. Carraway, adopted a project to promote the observance of the U.S. Constitution with a memorial week beginning on the anniversary of the signing of this document, September 17. The DAR petitioned the U.S. Congress to dedicate September 17 – 23 of each year to the commemoration of Constitution Week. Congress adopted the resolution, and on August 2, 1956, President Dwight D. Eisenhower signed it into Public Law #915. The celebration’s goals are threefold: to encourage the study of the historical events that led to the framing of the Constitution in September 1787; to remind the public that the Constitution is the basis of America’s great heritage and the foundation for its way of life; and to emphasize U.S. citizens’ responsibility to protect, defend and preserve the U.S. Constitution.
DAR’s Constitution Hall is the only structure dedicated as a memorial to the U.S. Constitution. The inscription on the pediment reads, “Constitution Hall – a memorial to that immortal document, the Constitution of the United States, in which are incorporated the principles of freedom, equality and justice for which our forefathers strove.”
By Nikki Gonzalez, Constitution Week Committee Chair, Richard Dobbs Spaight Chapter, Daughters of the American Revolution