Saturday, September 17, 2005

Constitution Day: enduring lessons

On this day in 1787, the 39 delegates to the Constitutional Convention put their signatures to the document they had created.

In something of an oxymoron, President Bush signed a law that, effective this year, makes a formal celebration of Constitution Day mandatory for schools receiving federal funds. With the 17th being a Saturday this year, it was observed yesterday.

Mary Beth Tinker, child of a Methodist preacher with Quaker leanings, was an eighth-grader in Des Moines, Iowa, when she decided to become an activist against the Vietnam War. She, her brother, and others wore black armbands to class. They were suspended. For their trouble they ended up with a landmark free speech verdict from the Supreme Court, Tinker v. Des Moines (1969).

She grew up to became a pediatric nurse. She doesn't seem like a rabble-rouser. But yesterday, on Constitution Day, she was sharing her story with high school students in Washington, D.C. And she was wearing a black armband.

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