Capitol Hill Update from State Representative David Byrd: “Celebrate Freedom Week”

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   On May 4, 2017, Governor Bill Haslam signed into law, Public Chapter No. 279, “Celebrate Freedom Week.” The new law was to enhance “Constitution Day and Citizenship Day,” a federal observance that recognizes the adoption of the United States Constitution and those who have become U.S. citizens that is normally observed on September 17, the day in 1787 that delegates to the Constitutional Convention signed the document in Philadelphia.  

   I was proud to have sponsored “Celebrate Freedom Week” in the House along with Senator Joey Hensley in the Senate. The new law was designed to educate students in grades kindergarten through twelve (K-12) about the sacrifices made for freedom in the founding of this country and the values upon which this country was founded. “Celebrate Freedom Week” was enacted the week of September 17, 2018, and annually thereafter.

   Public Chapter 279 states that the Tennessee Department of Education shall promote “Celebrate Freedom Week” and shall provide each LEA with a variety of age and grade appropriate internet resources and materials for instruction use. The resources and materials shall be provided to aid educators and curriculum coordinators in creating programs and lesson plans for “Celebrate Freedom Week.” The department and LEA shall post information about “Constitution Day” and “Celebrate Freedom Week” as well as the recommended resources and material on their respective websites. 

   Public Chapter 279 also encourages schools to study the meaning and importance of the Declaration of Independence and the United States Constitution with an emphasis on the Preamble and the Bill of Rights. Other topics such as the rich diversity of American people as a nation of immigrants; the American Revolution; the formulation of the United States Constitution; and the Abolitionist Movement, including the Emancipation Proclamation and the Women’s Suffrage Movement are encouraged as well.

   During “Celebrate Freedom Week,” all students are encouraged to study and recite the following language from the Declaration of Independence that sum up the American philosophy of freedom: 

   “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness; that to secure these rights, governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed…”

   The law, “Constitution Day and Citizenship Day” was established by Congress in 2004.  Before this law was enacted, the holiday was known as “Citizenship Day.” In addition to renaming the holiday “Constitution Day and Citizenship Day,” the act mandates that all publicly funded educational institutions, and all publicly funded educational institutions, and all federal agencies, provide educational programming on the history of the American Constitution on that day. In May 2005, the United States Department of Education announced the enactment of this law and that it would apply to any school receiving federal funds of any kind.

   As always, I am truly humbled and honored to be your voice on Capitol Hill. If there is ever any issue I can assist with, please reach out to my office by calling 615-741-2190 or emailing me at rep.david.byrd@capitol.tn.gov.