Friday, September 17, 2010

Constitution Day - 223 Year Later

Today we celebrate Constitution Day in the United States of America. On September 17, 1787 our Founding Fathers declared “We the People” and signed the document establishing the freedoms we enjoy. On this 223rd anniversary some Americans feel the Constitution is ignored by many elected officials, judges and educators.

Federal law states, “Each educational institution that receives Federal funds for a fiscal year shall hold an educational program on the United States Constitution on September 17 of such year for the students served by the educational institution.” {36 U.S.C. § 106}

I assume this is happening in Connecticut but is that really enough? Why isn’t the Constitution a core curriculum every year for students?

I remember a lesson in Danbury schools talking about Thomas Jefferson’s letter to the Danbury Baptist Association. We were taught Jefferson was the “father” of separation of church and state. In fact, the history is far more complicated and even includes a misguided decision by the Supreme Court of the United States in 1947.

One of the best articles I’ve read on this topic is from David Barton:

The Separation of Church and State

In Barton’s closing comment he states, “In summary, the ‘separation’ phrase so frequently invoked today was rarely mentioned by any of the Founders; and even Jefferson's explanation of his phrase is diametrically opposed to the manner in which courts apply it today. 'Separation of church and state' currently means almost exactly the opposite of what it originally meant."

When I read the Constitution of the United States today I see many areas our government appears to conflict with the Founding Fathers. This is a fascinating topic for me so I will keep studying.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

A Young Life Cut Short on September 11, 2001

I had the pleasure to participate in a September 11th Remembrance Ceremony this morning at the site of Danbury's September 11th Memorial in Elmwood Park. The following is the text of my remarks:

"Thank you for joining us this morning to remember September 11, 2001.

On the first anniversary of September 11th, I was working on plans for a community celebration on behalf of the Mayor. We settled on a march down Main Street from the War Memorial to the CityCenter Green followed by a remembrance ceremony. A tropical storm blew through Danbury a few hours before the ceremony that afternoon and dropped trees and power lines across Main Street. An army of CL&P crews and city Forestry Department crews cleared the path for the celebration just in time for the start at 6:00 PM. The CityCenter Green was a sea of people.

The glass sculpture before us is the work of renowned artist Henry Richardson. The sculpture is a tower within a tower signifying the Twin Towers. The interior empty space is the same proportional dimensions as the physical presence of both towers. The inner tower here has the names of all Connecticut residents lost in the Twin Towers and highlighted in larger letters at eye-level are our Danbury-area residents. This twelve foot tower of glass is mounted on a pentagon of Connecticut granite.

The Danbury September 11th Memorial project was completed in less than a year and we hosted a spectacular dedication ceremony on September 11, 2004.

This is a special place in Danbury thanks to a group of people lead by Father Albert Audette who worked hard to make this memorial a reality. Vycki Higley Pratt, Kristy Gray, Firefighter Thomas Corbett, Sgt. John Krupinsky, Joel Levitt, Jan Nastasia, Jessica Soriano and I worked well together during the planning. This past year we lost another dedicated member of the committee – Sherry Williams – who passed on to join her daughter Candace Lee Williams – a passenger on Flight 11.

Candace Lee Williams was a student. A graduate of Immaculate High School’s Class of 1999, she was attending Northeastern University in Boston. She made the Dean’s List and was a member of the National Honor’s Society.

Candace was a Daughter, Sister, Granddaughter and Niece.

Candace was active. In high school she was a cheerleader, served on the student council, volunteered for the Special Olympics, played basketball and ran cross country.

Candace worked in the World Trade Center though she was on Flight 11 when she died. The plane she was in crashed into the building where she worked as an intern. She impressed her co-workers at Merrill Lynch so much that on her last day they sent her away in a limousine. The next semester Merrill Lynch asked Northeastern University for “five more Candaces.”

Candace was a dreamer. On 9/11 she was on the way to California, to meet her roommate for a short vacation. On that trip she wanted, more than anything else, to have her picture taken with the Hollywood sign

Maybe more than anything Candace was a helper. As a child she helped out at her grandparent’s construction company and not just in the office. She ran the machines, she poured concrete and she even put in septic systems.

At Northeastern University she developed a reputation as someone who would help others. Classmates appeared on her doorstep before exams, knowing she’d help - she even helped convince one friend not to drop out of school.

Airline records say that on Flight 11, Candace was seated next to Mildred Naiman, an 80-year-old grandmother. Candace’s mother said she’s sure her daughter died holding Mildred’s hand, comforting her.

You are looking at one of the most spectacular September 11th Memorials in the country. Candace Lee Williams and all the victims of September 11, 2001 deserve spectacular."

Visit Danbury's September 11th Memorial in Elmwood Park on Main Street.

Candace Lee William’s story is from “Project 2,996”