National Initiative on American History

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President Bush Announces National Initiative on American History, Civics,
and Service

WASHINGTON, September 17 – Today President George W. Bush observed the 215th
anniversary of the signing of the United State Constitution by announcing a
national initiative titled "Our Documents: A National Initiative on American
History, Civics, and Service." "Our Documents" was created out of
collaboration between National History Day (NHD), 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" invites all Americans to participate in a series of events
and programs to get us thinking, talking and teaching about the rights and
responsibilities of citizens in our democracy. The project includes
workshops, town meetings, competitions, and votes for students, teachers,
parents and the general public. "Our Documents" revolves around 100
milestone American documents drawn from thousands of public laws, Supreme
Court decisions, inaugural speeches, treaties, constitutional amendments,
and other national artifacts that have shaped us as a people. Beginning
with the Lee Resolution of 1776 and culminating with the Voting Rights Act
of 1965 these documents reflect our diversity, our unity, and our commitment
as a nation to continue the work of forming “a more perfect union.”

The goal of "Our Documents" is 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the general public in reading these historical documents and ask them to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 2002-2003 National History Day program theme “Rights and
Responsibilities in History.” Students across America will explore their
rights and responsibilities by creating original performances,
documentaries, papers, or three-dimensional exhibits as part of the NHD
national contest. 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 poster distributed to schools across America to promote this special
initiative and focus America’s attention on understanding the past as a
· A source book of lessons related to the 100 significant documents in
American history. The lessons are designed for classroom use and include
enrichment suggestions for further study and research.
· Teacher workshops related to Our Documents in every state during the 2002-
2003 school year.
· An Website
· A video conference for teachers to introduce Our Documents and train them
in using primary documents.
· Video and CDROM based instructional materials for the classroom.
· A live-televised town meeting on history and democracy, sponsored and
produced by The History Channel.

In inviting all Americans to participate in "Our Documents," the
collaboration between National History Day, National Archives and Records
Administration, the Corporation for National and Community Service and the
USA Freedom Corps hopes to keep the conversation started by the nation’s
founders on national rights and responsibilities evolving. Even after this
project is over National History Day will continue the efforts of "Our
Documents" by working to improve our country historical literacy in
preparation for the next 100 milestone documents that America will create.

National History Day is not just one day, but a yearlong education
organization that makes history come alive through educator professional
development and active student learning. Effective educators like Chauncey
Veatch, 2002 National Teacher of the Year, incorporate NHD into their
curriculum and over 2 million people are annually engaged in NHD programs.
The organization has received the National Endowment for the Humanities
Charles Frankel Prize for public programming and is funded nationally by
Cargill, The History Channel, and other corporations, foundations and

For more information visit the official website at on
or after September 17, 2002.

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