Celebrating the constitution: Secretary of State visits Heritage Elementary

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By Nathan L. McBroom

As Kentucky's Secretary of State, one of Trey Grayson's top priorities is to ensure that many of the freedoms guaranteed in the U.S. Constitution are experienced here in the Commonwealth.

That's not an easy job.

This past Wednesday, Grayson was given an equally challenging task of explaining those constitutional freedoms to second- and fifth- grade students at Heritage Elementary School.

Grayson came to Heritage on Wednesday morning to celebrate Constitution Day, a day set aside by the U.S. Congress to remember the document that established this country.

School children are required to spend part of a day this week learning about the Constitution and the role that it plays in the lives of all Americans - both great and small.

Grayson, who is in his second term in office, explained to the students why the U.S. has a constitution.

"The constitution is really just a fancy word for rules. And you might think, 'How can I be free if all of these rules are taking things away?' But, actually, these rules make our country a better place to live," he said.

Grayson, who has two children of his own, said even children are able to understand and treasure the freedoms guaranteed in the Constitution.

"We are very lucky to live in this country, because it is the only country in the world that is founded on an idea. And that idea is found in the Constitution," he said.

Grayson then read to the children "We the kids," an illustrated rendering of the Preamble to the Constitution.

Because of the archaic language in the document, Grayson had to stop and explain what many of the words meant.

Though most of the children could guess what the words meant in context, some gave them trouble.

When Grayson read the line "secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity," he asked the students if they knew what the word "posterity" means.

One little girl raised her hand and said, "It means that we have the right to eat pasta."

Grayson smiled and affirmed that we do in deed have the right to eat pasta.

After he finished reading the Preamble, Grayson fielded questions from the audience.

One boy asked Grayson if China had a constitution.

"If they do, they don't have one that gives their people the freedoms that we do," he said.

Just before Grayson left, one student asked him if Kentucky had a constitution.

"We do, but it's a lot longer and not as good as the federal constitution," he replied.

Kentucky is currently on its fourth constitution.

Congress created the "U.S. Constitution Day" in 2004 through legislation by Senator Robert Byrd of West Virginia. The day is designed to focus attention on the U.S Constitution, which is the oldest and shortest constitution in the world.

In a press release concerning the event, Grayson said he came to Heritage to stress how important the constitution is to the students.

"I hope today's activities will encourage more young people to become involved in their government and to strengthen their knowledge of how our government is structured," he said.

From Heritage, Grayson went to the Citizen Kentucky Public Forum at the University of Kentucky, and then to Beechgrove Elementary School in Independence.

The Preamble

"We the People of the United States, in order to form a more perfect union, establish justice, insure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general welfare, and secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America."