By Kathleen Reynolds
When you think of the U.S. Constitution, do you picture a bulky, cumbersome tome, laden with obscure words?
The Constitution of the United States is only four pages and the original is on continuous display in the National Archives. For Constitution Week (September 17-23, 2023), a copy will be displayed in the front window of the Napa County Historical Society Goodwin Library on First Street in Napa, courtesy of the Vineyard Trails Chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR).
“The week is commemorated on September 17, when the US Constitution was first signed in 1787,” writes Margaret Beaubien, DAR Vineyard Trails Chapter Regent, in an email. “It also recognizes those who have become US citizens. Many areas of the country hold mass naturalizations on the 17th as well.”
While written in 1787, the Constitution wasn’t official until 1788, when all nine states had ratified it. Our Constitution is the shortest and the oldest of any in the world.
“It’s surprising to many people to hear that the United States isn’t a Democracy but is a Democratic Republic,” says Dana Baumgardner, Vineyard Trails Chapter member and treasurer. “That’s why we don’t vote directly, but select representatives to vote, the Electoral College. It’s an important document to read.”
“The Constitution is not huge, unlike the Tax Code or Amendments. I have a copy that’s on a single 20” x 17” sheet and I’ve seen wallet sized copies. The only huge thing is that it gives us so much information and understanding about our day-to-day lives.”
On September 17, the Vineyard Trails chapter will also bring Bells Across America to Napa, an annual celebration of the signing of the U.S. Constitution. Participants gather to ring bells, much as the church bells of Philadelphia rang out when the U.S. Constitution was first signed on September 17, 1787. To herald the beginning of Constitution Week, Vineyard Trails has asked several churches in the area to ring their bells for one minute at 1 p.m. on September 17. They will read a Proclamation from the City of Napa, provide small bells for participants to ring, and hand out copies of the Preamble to the Constitution, it also will be at the Goodman Library building.
“People should keep in mind that the Constitution is not perfect,” Dana says.
“We may not have reached the goals written, but we aspire to them and see what we can do to get there. I was unhappy to read that Civics is no longer taught in high schools in many areas. If young people don’t learn their responsibilities, they won’t know how to be part of society.”
The Vineyard Trails chapter of the DAR has 77 members and meets the third Saturday of the month in person at the Napa Senior Center.
“We have different speakers on multiple subjects every month,” says Dana. “Amelia Ceja spoke to us about coming to Napa and eventually opening a winery. We had a former guard at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier talk about what he learned from his experience. We had a speaker who had been in the Ukraine discuss the humanitarian crisis. We also have fun. For our last meeting, one of our members wrote a play about the Constitution and members had parts; one played Benjamin Franklin. We’re a congenial group.”
If you attended Napa’s Fourth of July parade, you saw the Vineyard Trails DAR float.
“We enacted characters in a book called ‘A Girl Called Samson,’ about a woman pretending to be a man to fight in the Revolutionary War. She was successful and even got a pension for her work. We got that book from the State Librarian and had it as a members’ book club selection.”
The three pillars of the DAR are education, patriotism and service to veterans. The Vineyard Trails chapter is busy with many civic activities.
They donate and help lay wreaths at the graves of veterans buried at the Sacramento Valley Veterans National Cemetery in Dixon and the California Veterans Home in Yountville during the annual national Wreaths Across America event in December. This place in cemeteries across the country including the Arlington National Cemetery in Washington, DC.
The group gives gifts and cards to veterans at Christmas time as well as volunteering with assistance on various projects there, honor high school seniors with DAR Good Citizens Awards, sponsor Boy Scout Projects, conduct official flag burning ceremonies for unserviceable flags, participate in Operation Love from Home organizing boxes of personal supplies to deployed troops and many more activities.
For more information go to vtnapa.californiadar.org. There are links there to the National Organization as well as Vineyard Trails Chapter events.