The American Civil Liberties Union of Indiana and more than a dozen partner organizations gave out 1,000 pocket-sized editions of the U.S. Constitution to passersby in downtown Indianapolis Tuesday.
The civil rights group was there to celebrate Constitution Day, a federal holiday held each year on Sept. 17 to celebrate the adoption of the critical document. The day also recognizes people who have become U.S. citizens.
ACLU organizers were joined by representatives from other Indianapolis nonprofit and advocacy groups, including Common Cause, Exodus Refugee Immigration, the League of Women Voters and more.
During the event, volunteer Tom Blake stood at the corner of Washington and Meridian streets. He wore a bright blue-and-red shirt for Common Cause, a non-partisan group that advocates for redistricting and fair elections.
Blake was one of several dozen volunteers who took to downtown Indianapolis with their respective organizations. The volunteers spread out around Monument Circle and handed out small copies of the constitution to passersby as they made their way to lunch and jobs.
That’s how coworkers Andrea Haydon and Sarah Causey walked away with copies of their own. Each said they hadn’t touched the document in years.
“The last time I read the constitution was probably in sixth grade social studies class,” Haydon said.
Haydon and Causey said they supported the day’s focus on open, honest dialogue about what the constitution means in America today.
“We’re at a really opportunistic time for the country to start to think about who we want to be going forward and it reminds us of that true passion of our founding fathers,” Causey said.
The event organizers said they also wanted the pedestrians they spoke with to note America’s complicated history in the creation and adoption of the constitution, namely its failure to prohibit slavery and ensure equal representation for all Americans.
"So many people were excluded from the constitution, but that's been the glory of our country that we've, sometimes very slowly, come to recognize," said Jane Henegar, executive director of the ACLU of Indiana. "We've come to recognize the limitations and wrongs that need to be righted, and the constitution gives us a framework for making those changes."
Amid handing out copies, Blake said people need to read and internalize the document on their own to best contribute to larger discussions about what America is and can become.
“I think an awful lot of people think that they know what’s in the constitution because of what they’ve heard on the news or what they’ve seen other people say, but you really need to read it,” Blake said.