Grayson County residents came together to commemorate the signing of one of the country’s founding documents.About two dozen people participated in the annual reading of the U.S. Constitution Tuesday as a part of Constitution Day celebrations at Grayson County Courthouse.
The festivities included patriotic music and poetry along with the reading of the document in its entirety.
“We are having this event to honor the signing of our Constitution 232 years ago on Sept. 17, 1787,” organizer Catherine Giles said.
The origins of Constitution Day date back to localized efforts near the turn of the 20th Century. In the 1940s, Citizenship day was created to recognize the rights that were bestowed through American citizenship. The current holiday was created in 2004 as a day to advocate for education on the constitution.
“Constitution Day is relevant and important because it is the founding of our rights, founding of our three separate but equal branches of government,” Giles said.
In total, 39 people — just 52 percent of the Constitutional Convention — signed the document. These 39 people ranged from backgrounds from elder statesmen and future presidents to planters and property owners. The youngest signer was Jonathan Dayton, 26, of New Jersey while Benjamin Franklin at age 81 was the oldest man to sign his name. Franklin required assistance in entering the convention due to pain from gout and kidney stones.
“The delegates ranged from the idealistic to the radical,” Giles said.
The ceremony includes music and the poetry by representatives from Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 2772. Among the pieces presented was Emma Lazarus’ The New Colossus, famous for its lines regarding support of the tired, poor, “huddled masses yearning to breathe free.”
The event concluded at exactly 3 p.m. with a ringing of bells, meant to commemorate the time when the document was signed and people rushed out ringing hand and church bells to announce the news.
About half a dozen members of the audience took turns reciting the constitution from its preamble to the 27th amendment in 1992. The document took about an hour in total to be read out loud.
Darrell Hartley, a chaplain with VFW Post 2772 read the preamble in its entirety for his portion.
“This was my second year that I was able to participate,” he said. “It may sound cliche, but it felt like I was there for the original reading.
Throughout the reading Hartley reflected on the progress that the nation has made and the unity that a document like the constitution represents for the country.
“One must admit, myself included, that we have come a long way,” he said.