Happy Bill of Rights Day, readers.
Yes, that’s a thing.
President Franklin D. Roosevelt founded it by presidential proclamation in 1941 in honor of the 150th anniversary of the ratification of the Bill of Rights.
In his proclamation, Roosevelt charged Americans “to observe the day by displaying the flag of the United States on public buildings and by meeting together for such prayers and such ceremonies as may seem to them appropriate.”
We suggest you observe the holiday. No need for a ticker-tape parade, big sale in a store or other form of mishegas. Instead, take a moment to read and reflect on the Bill of Rights and freedoms it affords to our citizenry.
You can find the full text of the Bill of Rights here: billofrightsinstitute.org/bill-of-rights.
A quick refresher for those who haven’t thought about the Bill of Rights since high school or college: The Bill of Rights is comprised of the first 10 amendments to the Constitution of the United States. Essentially, it guarantees specific freedoms and rights to our country’s citizens and provides limitations on what the government can and cannot do.
Some of these aforementioned freedoms and rights include freedoms of speech, religion, the press, peaceable assembly, petitioning the government, bearing arms, protection against self-incrimination and double jeopardy, the right to due process and a speedy public trial. The Bill of Rights also guarantees certain states’ rights and reinforces the principles of separation of powers and federalism.
By the way, these freedoms aren’t a carte blanche waiver to do whatever one wants. Freedom of speech does not mean you can shout "fire" in a crowded room. Freedom of the press does not give you the right to libel another citizen. Actions, after all, do have consequences.
Having said that these protections the Bill of Rights provides are all good and wonderful things. They make our union that much stronger, allow for civil discourse (emphasis on the word civil) and are the reason the United States serves as a model government to the rest of the world, especially developing democracies.
These freedoms come with responsibilities and privileges. Many people have died to defend them. Keep that in mind the next time you feel the need to bash our system.
If you still don’t believe us when we say these freedoms are precious, ask an immigrant why they came to the United States. Ask what their experiences were like being unable to do and say the things we take for granted here daily. Ask them how their former country was different. Ask them what motivated them to come to the United States.
Please take a moment to consider this document and how it impacts your life. Ask powerful questions. Most importantly, during this time of year, count your blessings.