Publication Date

October 1, 2002

President George W. Bush observed the 215th anniversary of the signing of the U.S. Constitution by announcing on September 17 a national initiative titled "Our Documents: A National Initiative on American History, Civics, and Service." "Our Documents" was created through collaboration between National History Day, the National Archives and Records Administration, the Corporation for National and Community Service, and the USA Freedom Corps to promote public exploration of how our understandings of rights and responsibilities have changed over time.

"Our Documents" will consist of a series of events and programs designed to get Americans thinking, talking, and teaching about the rights and responsibilities of citizens. The project includes workshops, town meetings, and competitions for students, teachers, parents and the general public. "Our Documents" revolves around 100 key American documents drawn from thousands of public laws, Supreme Court decisions, inaugural speeches, treaties, constitutional amendments, and other national artifacts. Beginning with the Lee Resolution of 1776 and culminating with the Voting Rights Act of 1965 these documents reflect American diversity, unity, and commitment as a nation to continue the work of forming "a more perfect union."

"Our Documents" will seek to engage students, teachers, parents, and the general public in reading these historical documents and ask them to vote at for the one they deem the most significant. Through this process Americans will explore the nation's civic legacy and reflect on the meanings of citizenship in a republican democracy.

Through the course of the school year, "Our Documents" will engage students and teachers in the 2002–03 National History Day program theme, "Rights and Responsibilities in History." Students across America will, as participants in the NHD national contest, explore rights and responsibilities by creating original performances, documentaries, papers, or three-dimensional exhibits. History and social studies teachers will also have the opportunity to develop document-based lesson plans for national awards and distribution. "Teaching Our Documents: A National History Day Lesson Competition for American Educators" invites teachers to develop and test a classroom lesson focusing on one or several of the 100 Milestone Documents in US History. Educator and student awards will be announced at the National History Day competition June 15–19, 2003 at the University of Maryland at College Park.Other projects and events involved in "Our Documents" include: a source book of lessons related to the 100 significant documents in American history; a video conference for teachers to introduce Our Documents and train them in using primary documents; video- and CD-ROM-based instructional materials for the classroom, and a live-television town meeting on history and democracy, sponsored and produced by The History Channel.

—Based on a report from of National History Day.

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