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NationalConstitutionCenter

Visit. Learn. Debate. Celebrate The Constitution On Sept. 17 — And All The Rest Of The Year — At The National Constitution Center In Philadelphia.

The Fourth of July is always a great party, but there’s another date that should have a big red circle around it – Sept. 17. Why? Because on Sept. 17, 1787, after almost four months of work, the delegates to what is now known as the Constitutional Convention met at Independence Hall in Philadelphia to sign the document that is the supreme law of our land — the Constitution. Since 2004, Sept. 17 has been officially recognized as Constitution Day and Citizenship Day. And there’s no better place to celebrate than the National Constitution Center in Philadelphia, established by Congress to “disseminate information about the United States Constitution on a non-partisan basis in order to increase the awareness and understanding of the Constitution among the American people.”

AMERICA’S TOWN HALL. The center’s mission is to serve as the museum of We The People, to be a national headquarters for civic education, and to act as America’s Town Hall. These goals can be summarized in three words: visit, learn and debate. The center’s exhibits and activities make learning fun, and relevant. Scale models of the Capitol, White House and Supreme Court give a look at the buildings, the people who work in them and the checks and balances of the three branches of government. Hail to the Chief: Presidential Trivia, a game-show-inspired competition, tests your knowledge of commanders-in-chief throughout American history. Abraham Lincoln’s Crossroads, one of the center’s online games, let’s you learn about Lincoln’s leadership by exploring the political choices he made.

“LIVING NEWS,” LIVING CONSTITUTION. One of the most popular of the Center’s features is “Living News,” a fast-paced, 25-minute theatrical performance that introduces current and controversial issues, such as freedom of speech, gun control and capital punishment. Three actors involve the audience in the action during a multi-media show that incorporates video, contemporary music and current news broadcasts. The young performers share their obvious enthusiasm for their subject matter. Philadelphia-based actor Francesca Piccioni, one of the “Living News” cast, said: “Working for the National Constitution Center has empowered me to know my rights and be an active citizen. All of which the Constitution allows and encourages us to do.”

HOW THE CENTER CAME TO BE. A permanent memorial to the Constitution was first proposed around the time of the celebration of the centennial of the Constitution in 1887 and was proposed again during the bicentennial celebration in 1987. On Sept. 16, 1988, President Ronald Reagan signed the Constitution Heritage Act of 1988, which called for a national center “within or in close proximity to the Independence National Historical Park.” The center broke ground on Sept. 17, 2000, 213 years to the day after the Constitution was signed. The center opened its doors on July 4, 2003.

IF YOU GO, BE SURE TO SEE. The National Constitution Center owns a rare, original copy of the first public printing of the Constitution. This printing was published in a newspaper, The Pennsylvania Packet and Daily Advertiser, on Sept. 19, 1787 — two days after the Constitution was signed. The Constitutional Convention was conducted under an oath of secrecy, so this printing represents the first time that Americans — ”We the People” — saw the Constitution.

STAND WITH THE FOUNDERS AND SIGN YOUR NAME. Signers’ Hall, one of the museum’s iconic attractions, holds 42 life-size, bronze statues of the Founding Fathers. There are numerous famous faces in the room, including George Washington, Benjamin Franklin, James Madison, and Alexander Hamilton. Pose beside your favorite Founding Father for a great photo op as you sign your name to the Constitution.

NATIONAL CONSTITUTION CENTER PARTICULARS. The National Constitution Center is located at 525 Arch St. in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, just steps from Independence Hall and the Liberty Bell. The museum’s 525 Arch St. address was chosen because May 25 (5/25) is the date that the Constitutional Convention began in Philadelphia in 1787. Open seven days a week, year-round, except Thanksgiving Day, Christmas Day and New Year’s Day. A self-guided iPod audio tour is available. For more information visit http://constitutioncenter.org.

AND REMEMBER: A journey is like marriage. The certain way to be wrong is to think you control it. — John Steinbeck.

Susan Cohn is a member of the North American Travel Journalists Association, Bay Area Travel Writers, and the International Food, Wine & Travel Writers Association. She may be reached at susan@smdailyjournal.com. More of her stories may be found here.

Susan Cohn writes about travel for the San Mateo Daily Journal and Berkshire Fine Arts. She is a member of the American Theatre Critics Association, the San Francisco Bay Area Theatre Critics Circle, and the State Bar of California.

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Susan with The Travel Angel at Original Farmers Market in LA.

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