Did you forget Citizenship Day:  Sept. 17th?

By Michael Hernandez

As I navigated closed Oxnard Streets around Park Plaza where the celebration for Fiesta Patrias was taking place (Sept. 15, 17, 18) in honor of Mexican Independence Day—I wondered if anybody else besides me had forgotten to observe Citizenship Day or Constitution Day which is normally observed Sept. 17th?


Constitution Day is an American federal observance that recognizes the adoption of the United State Constitution and all those who have become U.S. citizens.  The day celebrates the signing of the document in Philadelphia by the delegates to the Constitutional Convention in 1787—229 years ago.

The law establishing the present holiday was created in 2004 with the passage of an amendment by Senator Robert Byrd, West Virginia Democrat, who was the longest serving member of the U.S. Congress (1953-2010) to the Omnibus spending bill. Before the law was enacted, the holiday was known as “Citizenship Day.”

Iowa schools first recognized Constitution Day in 1911 and in 1917 the Sons of the American Revolution formed a committee to promote Constitution Day which included Calvin Coolidge, John D. Rockefeller and General John Pershing.

The song “I am an American” came out at the New York World’s Fair in 1939 (introduced on NBC, Mutual and ABC networks that year and promoted by publisher William Randolph Hearst and his chain of daily newspapers) and was instrumental in Congress designating the third Sunday in May (1940) as “I am an American Day.” 

In 1944, the United States Immigration and Naturalization Service produced a 16-minute film, “I am an American” that was featured in American theaters as a short feature.  This led to the governors of all 48 states in 1949 to issue Constitution Day proclamations.  Then in Feb. 29, 1952, Congress moved the “I am an American Day” observation to Sept. 17 and renamed it “Citizenship Day.”

I wonder how many of us celebrated Citizenship Day this year?  


Fiestas Patrias celebration- Downtown Oxnard 9-18-16. Photo: George Miller/CitizensJournal.us

Constitution Day and Citizenship Day | Law Library of Congress


Michael Hernandez, Co-Founder of the Citizens Journal.us—Ventura County’s online news service, founder of History Makers International, is a former Southern California daily newspaper journalist and religion and news editor. Mr. Hernandez can be contacted by email: [email protected] or by calling (818) 263-9881.


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