What does the Constitution mean to me?
My colleagues at the Capitol Visitor Center’s (CVC) Exhibits and Education Division asked that I create a sample journal to inspire U.S. Capitol visitors who will make journals as part of Constitution Week activities at the CVC the week of September 17.
The activity that I was tasked with was to use the journal to express what is important to me about the Constitution.
I am not a student of history. I’m not even particularly knowledgeable about history. In fact, I’ve learned more about our country’s history while working at the Capitol than I learned throughout my liberal arts education.
This assignment stumped me. What DOES the Constitution mean to me?
In the midst of media coverage of the Republican and Democratic conventions, there has been tremendous focus on women and how they will vote in the upcoming Presidential election. This inspired me to focus my journal on the 19th amendment to the Constitution which prohibits U.S. citizens from being denied the right to vote based on sex. It was ratified on August 18, 1920.
I began my journal with a provocative quote from Abigail Adams, wife of John Adams, second President of the United States:
"If particular care and attention is not paid to the ladies, we are determined to foment a rebellion, and will not hold ourselves bound by any laws in which we have no voice, or representation."
Using the materials the CVC supplied, I included pictures of campaign buttons for former Representatives Geraldine Ferraro and Patsy Mink in my journal. I also included a photograph of Jeannette Rankin, the first woman elected to Congress, whose statue is in Emancipation Hall in the Visitor Center. Then I began cutting out pictures of women from newspapers. And there were plenty!
I ended with a question: "What will we look like as a country on August 18, 2020, 100 years after the passage of the 19th amendment?"
This exercise gave me time to really reflect and appreciate the U.S. Constitution. I’m excited for visitors to the Capitol this week to share this experience and look forward to seeing what journals they create.
For more information about Constitution Week activities, go to www.visitthecapitol.gov.