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Celebrating Constitution Day

Lynne Cheney speaks to elementary school students.

Lynne Cheney was in good company last week at George Mason’s Gunston Hall Plantation. Not only was she with 200 third graders from Bucknell Elementary, Fort Belvoir Elementary and Gunston Elementary, but she was with some other important people as well.

George Mason was there. So were George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Patrick Henry, James Madison and Elizabeth Cady Stanton.

They were all there for “Constitution Day 2004: Telling America’s Story.” Cheney, wife of Vice President Dick Cheney, came to Gunston Hall to celebrate the anniversary of the signing of the U.S. Constitution with the elementary school students.

Cheney spoke about George Mason, the founding father who did not sign the U.S. Constitution 217 years ago, because it lacked a declaration of rights. By standing up for what he believed, George Mason was instrumental in the eventual adoption of America’s Bill of Rights, which protects such freedoms as the right to free speech, peaceful assembly, and trial by jury.

The program and interactive activities celebrated the day the United States Constitution was signed 217 years ago on Sept. 17, 1787.

David L. Reese, director, Gunston Hall Plantation, greeted the group, and spoke a little about Mason; how he built his home in 1755, how he was a prosperous planter, father of nine children, author of the Virginia Declaration of Rights and had the reputation as “one of the brilliant men of the Revolutionary era.” Reese then introduced Cheney, who commented on what a lovely day it was to be at Gunston.

“Think back 217 years ago. It was very hot that September, as a group of leaders gathered in Philadelphia, Pa.,” Cheney said.

She spoke to the students about the importance of having a plan and how the United States has a good plan. The plan she was talking about was the Constitution of the United States.

“That plan is so good, that people from all over the world use it to create their plans,” said Cheney, who went on to talk about how Mason thought that a vice-president wasn’t necessary.

“It was a worthless office,” he said.

Mason had other problems with the Constitution — he didn’t think that it did enough to stop the slave trade. More importantly, he didn’t like the fact that the Constitution didn’t have a Bill of Rights. Because of that latter reason, he left Philadelphia to come home without signing the Constitution. Of course, they added the Bill of Rights to the Constitution a few years later.

“It’s wonderful to be part of a government that other countries want to model their country after,” Cheney said.

After she spoke, she spent time with the students who participated in various activities, such as playing Colonial games, writing with quill pens, visiting the archeological site and touring the plantation.