by Nick Kinteris ('13)
Save the date, for December 15, 2012 is a remarkable day. Not only can we, as a nation, enjoy the sweet, indulgent bliss that is National Cupcake Day, but believe it or not the 15th of December has another deep-rooted significance.
It’s Bill of Rights Day.
So set aside that cupcake and review your calendar, because the fifteenth marks the two hundred and twenty-first anniversary of the ratification of the first ten amendments. Amendments that lie at the center of the words we speak, decisions we make, and independence we possess as people of this nation.
For those not familiar with the origin of the holiday, here are the basics. And for those who are, here’s a refresher before we discuss why you should care.
In 1788, a twelve year old United States of America had successfully ratified its constitution, but disagreement about legal rights still persisted. For as substantial and as paramount as the U.S. Constitution was, it was also riddled with flaws. But there was one flaw that rose to prominence among the rest. Nowhere in the document were citizens’ individual rights and freedoms listed. This is where the Bill of Rights entered the picture.
Recalling the harsh violation of rights that the British had imposed before and during the Revolutionary War, the Anti-federalists clashed with the Federalists on matters of the bill’s inclusion. It was a battle of ink and tongue, so to speak.
The Anti-federalists were convinced that the influential central government described would not only take control away from the state, but could potentially infringe on the rights of individual citizens.
After all, a costly and devisive war had just been won to establish rights. To leave any possibility, be it large or slender, of losing those privileges would be a country-shattering misfortune.
But with much “give and take” and good old-fashioned compromise, the Federalists and Anti-federalists alike came to agreement. Eventually in 1791, after the proper number of states ratified the bill, ten of the twelve original amendments were inducted into the Constitution and the rights of the individual American citizen were established.
And now, since President Franklin D. Roosevelt declared December 15 “Bill of Rights Day” in 1941, we have a whole day dedicated to celebrating one of our Country’s finest doctrines.
But why should you care? You’re in High School.
Bill of Rights Day comes with no big feast, no fireworks, no pie. It’s no family get together. It holds no spectacle. It even competes with a holiday dedicated to the cupcake.
But perhaps we shouldn’t aim to make it have the spectacle. Let’s be honest, “Bill of Rights Day” might be hard to celebrate. Celebrating it in the traditional way would resemble a second annual Fourth of July. This isn’t really necessary.
What we need, at least in our generation, and between us as peers, is to show that we have a knowledge, an appreciation, and a voice when it comes to our rights. We need to become vocal about the subject, if only for just one day.
We’ve seen violations of teenagers' personal rights in places around the country. In Fulton Mississippi, for example, school administrators wouldn’t allow an 18 year old teen to wear a tux and bring her girlfriend to the school prom. A federal judge ruled the incident a violation of the first amendment. And there are countless other examples showcasing teenagers who have had their liberties protected by the Bill of Rights. But will our rights always be protected if we do not make an effort to show that we value them?
Fortunately for teens living in 2012, we have a immense platform of expression at our fingertips. It’s the internet.
The internet in its various shapes and forms allows us all to become producers in our own way. The various forms of online social media can have huge effects, some of which can transcend the spoken word. The moment you upload, type, or send, you have access to a huge audience.
That is why we should take Bill of Rights Day and use not only the school environment, but the growing internet one as well. Use these to express, en masse, an appreciation.
So on this and future December 15ths I implore you to at least speak up. Let your fellow peers, our superiors and elders, and even those younger than us, know that we are well aware our rights, that we respect our rights, and even as high schoolers, we won’t settle for any infringement. Use Bill of Rights Day as the day to do this on a national scale: get it trending.
That may sound a bit dramatic and maybe kind of sappy, I’m sure.
But nonetheless, perhaps someday, on some December the 15th, if enough students our age show we care , people might actually re-read the Bill of Rights first and admire the cupcake later.