September 17 is Constitution Day, thanks to the efforts of the late Senator Robert C. Byrd, who always carried a copy with him on and off the floor of the Senate. Last year, I blogged about the various editions of the Constitution available as Government publications. This time around, I’ve been thumbing through another publication that helps to put the Constitution, the Declaration of Independence, and a variety of other documents, speeches, and even songs and poetry, into the bigger picture of what it means to be – or become – an American citizen.
The Citizen’s Almanac: Fundamental Documents, Symbols, and Anthems of the United States, a handsome and very useful little book from the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services correctly states that “both native-born and naturalized citizens will find important information on the rights and responsibilities associated withUnited States citizenship.” It’s an extremely useful collection of songs (The Star Spangled Banner, America the Beautiful, God Bless America), poems (The Concord Hymn, I Hear America Singing, The New Colossus), symbols (the Great Seal of the United States, including an explanation of that impressive but somewhat mystifying “pyramid with an eye in it” device), complete texts or extracts from notable American speeches (the Gettysburg Address, John F. Kennedy’s Inaugural Address, Martin Luther King’s I Have A Dream, Ronald Reagan’s Remarks at the Brandenburg Gate), notable Supreme Court decisions (Marbury v Madison, Brown v Board of Education) and much more.
Although the complete text of the Mayflower Compact, the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, and other documents are not included, the brief sections on each put them into context so readers can perceive the continuum of American democracy through time. For new and aspiring citizens, a series of brief biographies of famous Americans who were not born in the U.S. makes for interesting reading. In the entertainment world alone, how many of us think of Marlene Dietrich, Bob Hope, and Celia Cruz in their roles as citizens of the Republic?
The Citizen’s Almanac is a terrific, well-illustrated source for all kinds of information about American history and citizenship. It’s also an interesting read and a book that’s perfect for Constitution Day or any other day when you need information about this country of ours. You can browse through The Citizen’s Almanac here, buy a single copy or a package of 25 for schools and civic organizations, or locate it at a library.