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Constitution Week keeps patriotism alive in Gilbert

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Old 09-17-2010, 08:09 AM   #1
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Cool Constitution Week keeps patriotism alive in Gilbert

The U.S. Constitution was ratified in Philadelphia exactly 223 years ago today. And Gilbert is in the midst of what some call the nation's biggest birthday party for the nation's founding document with Constitution Week USA.
A full program of seminars, school presentations, a theatrical show, art show and workshops will culminate Saturday with the Constitution Fair at the Town Center.

"For Gilbert to be known as the town that has the largest celebration of the Constitution - I think it's a great compliment for Gilbert," said Gilbert Mayor John Lewis, who founded Constitution Week USA nine years ago.
Pointing to the number of people it reaches - 40,000 students during school outreach and 8,000 to 10,000 at the fair - organizers call the patriotic celebration the largest of its kind, not just in the state, but in the country.
In Philadelphia, the Constitution's birthplace, commemorative events might draw a stronger online interest, but fewer people participate, says local organizer Jared Taylor, who is mentoring a similar event in Farmington, N.M.
A spokeswoman for the National Constitution Center said 700 people attended the free-admission events at the center last Sept. 17.
Taylor attributes the success of Gilbert's celebration to the Town Council's support and the generosity of local businesses, which are picking up a major part of the $60,000 tab because the town decided it can't afford to help defray expenses.
In the past few years, he added, "the momentum built so fast. Once we could see as a community what could be done, it just kept on growing."
As to whether the celebration is too politically to the right, Lewis said: "The main organizers are quite conservative, but they have reached out to others and tried to give a good, broad approach to activities. It covers the gamut of interest for all American citizens."
Added Taylor: "It's also good timing, with people's renewed interest in the founding principles. And it resonates with the demographic in the East Valley."
Taylor conducts Constitution seminars across the country, sometimes attended by more than 150 people, and he sees an increased interest in returning to the Founding Fathers' original ideas.
As in Gilbert, he said, that interest cuts through party lines, similar to what occurred when the Constitution was drafted.
His father, Eric Taylor, who runs the National Center for Constitutional Studies in Malta, Idaho, will present a seminar Saturday in Gilbert. Unlike a study of constitutional law, which focuses on case law and precedent, the elder Taylor will look at the document's founding principles from the founders' perspectives, his son said.
He addresses questions such as "What did the articles mean when they were structured?," "Where is the balance centered in the political spectrum?" and "If the far right had no government and anarchy and the far left too much government that it became a tyranny, where is the right place for a government to exist?"
Jared Taylor said, "The founders didn't look at it that way. They found the right place for the country to settle into. They found the balance of center to design the Constitution to lock in the government."
Like last year, Taylor expects "tea party" and other activists to attend the fair, which offers people a chance to air their issues and grievances within a space called "Town Square."
But a significant part of Constitution Week USA is aimed at the young. Its roots lie in a children's parade in 2002, when Lewis, then a leader of an interfaith group, wanted another celebration to keep patriotism alive in Gilbert because the Fourth of July holiday is excessively hot.
Gilbert Public Schools got involved and local Constitution experts Bill Norton and Barbara Stowell developed it into a high-profile celebration in Gilbert.
Now, for weeks leading up to the fair, volunteers dress as George Washington, Thomas Jefferson and other drafters of the Constitution and visit schools to conduct lessons - via storytelling or more formally - on the document that gave life to the three branches of government and the Bill of Rights.
Among them is Sarah Crawford, who has taught fifth-graders for six years, dressed in the elegant garb of the country's second first lady, Abigail Adams.
Using examples involving acts of discipline in the classroom, students realize the implications of too little or too much government rule.
Crawford believes that teaching about balance in government to future leaders is important. "To maintain the balance, it takes vigilance," she said. "It's a unique government and we have to be able to understand it in order to keep it as free as possible."



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Old 09-17-2010, 08:39 AM   #2
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Old 09-17-2010, 08:48 AM   #3
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Awesome! Sounds like a great event, I wish they had things like that here. We have our POW/MIA day event tomorrow & did a 10k Vermont Remembers Run last Saturday.
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