The second annual "Defender of the U.S. Constitution" awards banquet Sept. 17 will highlight Utah's involvement in the national observance of Constitution Week.
President Reagan has proclaimed Sept. 17-23 as Constitution Week. The Commission on the Bicentennial of the United States Constitution, headed by former Supreme Court Chief Justice Warren E. Burger, is urging local cities, towns and organizations to sponsor special observances relating to the Constitution. The commission is heading a four-year effort, which began in 1987 and will end in 1991, aimed at making the public more aware of the Constitution and the freedoms it guarantees.Receiving the Defender of the Constitution award at the banquet will be former U.S. Attorney General Edwin Meese. The banquet is being sponsored by the National Center for Constitutional Studies and will be in the Salt Palace, with a reception at 6:30 p.m. and dinner at 7 p.m.
The banquet will culminate a day-long celebration of the signing and ratification of the Constitution on its 201st birthday.
Other activities include a prayer breakfast at 8 a.m. at the Salt Palace headed by former Congressman Dan Marriott. This event will include presentations by members of various religious faiths. Gordon Jump, a well-known actor and television personality, will play the role of Benjamin Franklin. Jump will include many of Franklin's thoughts on the U.S. Constitution. Franklin was the eldest statesman attending the Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia in 1787.
The observance of Constitution Week was first authorized by Congress in 1955. Presidents from Eisenhower to Reagan have issued annual proclamations for the observance.
A ringing tribute to the Constitution begins Sept. 17 at 4 p.m. EDT, the time of the signing of the original document in 1787. Individuals and groups across the nation will simultaneously ring bells for 200 seconds and release 200 red, white and blue balloons.
The commission is also urging discussions on topics such as what the word Constitution means, the freedoms guaranteed by the Constitution and Bill of Rights, citizenship in terms of rights and responsibilities, the concept of free elections, and civic responsibility as it applies to schools, work, civic groups, neighborhoods and individuals.
"Constitution Week is an observance not only of our freedoms, but of our responsibilities as citizens as well," said Burger. "It provides an opportunity for all to join with family, friends and community in an annual salute to the respect we all share for our governing document, but also our commitment to educate all citizens, especially our youth - the leaders of tomorrow - concerning its history and principles."