Thursday, July 4, 2013

5 Fascinating Facts about the Constitution and the Flag

In honor of July 4, here are 5 fascinating facts about the US Constitution and the American flag:

The U.S. Constitution

1. The U.S. Constitution has 4,440 words. It is the oldest and shortest written constitution of any government in the world. 

2. The word "democracy" does not appear once in the Constitution. 

3. There was initially a question as to how to address the President. The Senate proposed that he be addressed as "His Highness the President of the United States of America and Protector of their Liberties." But the House of Representatives and the Senate - in a whiff of prophetic wisdom - compromised on "President of the United States." 

4. The Constitution was "penned" - literally - by Jacob Shallus, a Pennsylvania General Assembly clerk, for a fee of $30. It was stored in various cities until 1952, when it was placed in the National Archives Building in Washington, D.C. During the daytime, pages one and four of the document are displayed in a bullet-proof case. The case contains helium and water vapor to preserve the paper's quality. At night, the pages are lowered into a vault, behind five-ton doors that are designed to withstand a nuclear explosion. The entire Constitution is displayed only one day a year -- not July 4 but rather September 17, the anniversary of the day the framers signed the document. 

5. The Constitution's most glaring omission is an individual right to vote! As a result, at the outset of the Union, only male property-owners could vote. African Americans were not considered citizens. Women were excluded from the electoral process. It was not until 1920, with the ratification of the 19th Amendment, that women could vote in national elections. And Native Americans were not given the right to vote until 1924. 

But even today, people have no constitutional right to vote in presidential elections or to control the selection of presidential electors, allowing state legislatures to disenfranchise segments of the population, enact restricting laws and suppress the vote. As my friend MD State Senator Jamie Raskin points out, we urgently need a right-to-vote amendment to the Constitution which 
will be a magnificent achievement to guarantee the right of all citizens to vote in presidential elections and all other relevant federal, state and local elections; to bring into the political community disenfranchised populations; to change the dynamics of judicial treatment of our political process to place voting rights at the center of our framework; and to revive progressive constitutional politics.

The American Flag:

1. Did you know that the flag should only displayed until dark, and that it should be taken down at dusk? Many people don’t know that a flag can be displayed around the clock as long as it is well-lit. However, the flag should always be taken down in foul weather.

2. If a flag is ever flown upside down, it spells danger. The only time this should be done is when you are in need of immediate assistance.  

3. When a flag can no longer be used, and it cannot be repaired, it should be destroyed in a dignified way, such as burning! However, it is acceptable to dry clean or wash a flag that is dirty.

4. Any individual can have a flag draped over their coffin, even if they are not a veteran.

5. The 50-star flag of the United States was raised for the first time officially at 12:01 AM on July 4, 1960, at Fort McHenry National Monument in Baltimore, MD after the 50th star had been added for Hawaii.  

(Based on and

Wishing everyone, including my friends from Petersburg, a Happy Fourth of July! 

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