December 15 is Bill of Rights Day. On this date in 1791, the United States ratified the first 10 amendments to the U.S. Constitution. Known collectively as the Bill of Rights, these amendments guarantee that the government will not restrict a number of freedoms, including the right to speak one’s mind, to worship as one pleases, and to enjoy the due process of law when charged with an offense.
“A bill of rights is what the people are entitled to against every government on earth … and what no just government should refuse.” – Thomas Jefferson
Over 200 years later, individual Americans still exercise these rights:
- Vinny Vella came up with a clever way to protect the freedom of the press (First Amendment) when his college newspaper faced censorship for a story he wanted to cover.
- A former beauty pageant winner, Kimberley Motley, became a public defender to ensure all Americans receive due process of law (Fifth Amendment). She even went to Afghanistan to help people there.
- Inspired by Martin Luther King Jr.’s famous March on Washington, the National March on Washington for Lesbian and Gay Rights used the freedom of assembly (First Amendment) to make LGBT rights a national issue.
The National Archives in Washington houses the original Bill of Rights document. The Archives website offers more information.