PUNXSUTAWNEY — Thursday morning, Punxsutawney Mayor James Wehrle — accompanied by members of the Punxsutawney chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR) — signed a proclamation announcing that the week of Sept. 17-22 is to be held as Constitution Week in Punxsutawney.
Wehrle cited both local and national ties to the declaration, announcing that DAR is a very special organization nationally; that Constitution Week is a very special week in American history; and that the people of Punxsutawney are very proud of DAR.
In a national press release, DAR's national chapter stated that Sept. 17 marks the beginning of the national celebration of Constitution Week.
"The weeklong commemoration of America's most important document is one of our country's least known official observances," the release states. "Our Constitution stands as a testament to the tenacity of Americans throughout history to maintain their liberties and freedom, and to ensure those inalienable rights to every American."
DAR — founded in 1890 with "the simple mission of promoting historic preservation, education and patriotism," according to its website — is an organization of more than 850,000 members admitted since its founding, and members come from a broad variety of backgrounds.
The specific tradition of celebrating the Constitution began in 1955, when the Daughters petitioned Congress to set aside Sept. 17-22 annually to be dedicated to the observance of Constitution Week.
The resolution was later adopted by Congress and signed into Public Law No. 915 Aug. 2, 1956 by President Dwight D. Eisenhower.
The aim of the celebration is three-fold: to emphasize citizens' responsibilities for protecting and defending the Constitution, preserving it for prosperity; to inform people that the Constitution is the basis for America's great heritage and the foundation for our way of life; and to encourage the study of the historical events which led to the framing of the Constitution in September 1787.
"We must remember and teach that those who wrote the Constitution believed that no government can create freedom, but that government must guard freedom rather than encroach upon the freedoms of its people," Merry Ann. T. Wright, President General of the DAR said. "The Constitution by itself cannot guarantee liberty. A nation's people can remain free only by being responsible citizens who are willing to learn about the rights of each arm of government and require that each is accountable for its own function.
"Therefore, Constitution Week is the perfect opportunity to read and study this great document, which is the safeguard of our American liberties. We encourage all citizens across the country to take time during this week to guard that which is committed to us by our forefathers — our freedom."
The mission of the organization is a simple one: to promote historic preservation, education and patriotism.
Membership is open to any woman 18 years of age or older who can prove lineal, bloodline descent from an ancestor who aided in achieving American independence.
The individual must be able to provide documentation for each statement of birth, marriage and death, in addition to the Revolutionary service of her Patriot ancestor.
Locally, Revolutionary patriots formed the Punxsutawney chapter of DAR on April 3, 1924, with E. Blanche Winslow Bowers serving as the Organizing Regent. In 1926, the Punxsutawney chapter was officially accepted by the National Society of the Daughters of the American Revolution.
Jan Harrold is currently serving as the regent, and the local chapter currently has 49 members.
Harrold spoke after Thursday's proclamation about why she loves serving as a member of the organization.
"I joined DAR partly as a tribute to my mother, who would have done the research and become a member, had she lived long enough," she said. "My mother's love of history and genealogy, as well as the desire to see our history preserved, was instilled in me as I grew up. It seemed only fitting for me to carry out her dream to trace our family's lineage."
The local chapter's website points out that, "as a member of DAR, through participation in the Society's various programs and activities, you can continue this legacy by actively supporting historic preservation, promotion of education and patriotic endeavors."
Harrold added that being a member of DAR has been an experience that has benefitted her through the satisfaction of serving and helping others.
"Being a member of DAR is a rewarding experience," she said. "We not only preserve the memory of noble men and women who bore their share in the danger of the Revolutionary War, but we also participate in many projects that support and benefit our veterans today. We cherish, maintain and extend the institutions of America and advocate all appropriate celebrations for all patriotic anniversaries."
The national organization's site states that DAR provides members with the opportunity to do a plethora of things:
• contribute to important service projects
• honor and preserve the legacy of patriot ancestors
• make lifelong friends
• participate in unique social and service-oriented programs within one's community
• be involved in a variety of programs that provide something for everyone
• gain valuable leadership experience
• establish a network of contacts in your community and all over the world.
Harrold added a final reason that she would encourage anyone interested to give DAR a look.
"Being a member of DAR gives a person a sense of pride in our country and promotes a strong feel of patriotism," she said.
Ann Lott, a DAR member who was also on hand for the signing of the proclamation, added a similar sentiment.
"I just have a lot of pride in having an ancestor who was part of the American Revolution," she said. "It's something to be proud of."