Thanks, Henderson!

This morning, I walked into work to find a fantastic surprise waiting on my chair – a care package from Monica Simmons, the City Clerk of Henderson, NV! During our trip to Henderson, NV a couple weeks ago, she had mentioned Henderson’s youth voter registration initiative, Join the Party. My care package came complete with a DVD of their fun Voter Registration “Rap”, and an awesome “Join the Party” t-shirt!

Working at a national registration organization like Declare Yourself is incredibly satisfying and I’m proud that we worked hard to register over 2 million voters for the last election. However, it’s always inspiring to learn more about the local campaigns working to towards a more informed and involved America. Great job, Henderson!

Check out the beautiful way the stars and stripes reflect in the glass!

Check out the beautiful way the stars and stripes reflect in the glass!

Also included in my care package were some incredible photos that the city took during our visit. Check out this amazing photo of the flag reflected in the Declaration and visit out our Flickr page to see the entire album!

Thanks again, Monica, and I hope we can return to Henderson, soon!

How much do YOU know about the Declaration?

How much do you know about the history of the Declaration of Independence? Check out this quiz by HISTORY:

HISTORY Declaration Quiz

What a Day!

We just wrapped our first day in Henderson and phew, what a day!

After an 8AM wake up call, we set the document up in the Henderson Convention center. In the exhibition room, they had arranged an incredible display for us – draped from the ceiling was a sixty foot long American Flag!

A family of four pays their respects to the document... but I think the little boy is distracted by the musket rifle next door!

A family of four pays their respects to the document... but I think the little boy is distracted by the musket rifle next door!

Children from the Clarke County public school system began filing through around 9AM. They were an inquisitive bunch, asking how old the document is (233 years), if it’s the “real” one (yes), and most importantly – what I would do if they stole it? I gestured to my two armed officers in response, “Well,” I said, “you’d have to get past these guys first!”

As back up for the document’s security officers, we also had a fully armed Pennsylvania militia man in full regalia. He even had a musket rifle (unloaded…), which attracted the attention of the schoolboys in the group.

In the afternoon, Pearson Curriculum hosted a dignitary event for the Declaration and invited many local dignitaries. Among the guests of honor were Mayor Andy Hafen, Councilwomen Gerri Schroder and Debra March, State Senator Joyce Woodhouse, County Clerk Monica Simmons, Assemblywoman Marilyn Dondero Loop, and former County Commissioner Thalia Dondero.

After a wonderful celebration, we transported the display to this evening’s City Council meeting where the Council presented us with a Commendation for bringing the document to Henderson.

What an exciting and exhausting day! After 12 hours of nonstop action, I’m all set to rest up for another busy day tomorrow!

Celebrating New Jersey Day!

Recently, the Declaration of Independence took a trip out to New Jersey as part of our Pearson/Mock Election Tour. The trip coincided with “New Jersey Day” – the 345th anniversary of New Jersey’s founding as a British colony.

In honor of the occasion, the State Archives brought a treasure out from their own holdings – the state charter. This document, dated June 24, 1664, and signed by James, Duke of York, granted two noblemen a charter of land in the colonies.

The New Jersey Charter - or "New Jersey's Birth Certificate" - awarded the original land grant for the Garden State

The New Jersey Charter - or "New Jersey's Birth Certificate" - awarded the original land grant for the Garden State

For the duration of our trip, the two documents – the “state’s birth certificate” and the “country’s birth certificate” lay side by side for residents of New Jersey to see.

Check out the Student Mock Election’s coverage of the event:

Also take a peek at our Flickr pictures of the birthday celebration and don’t miss the one where Governor Corzine cuts the cake and accidentally gets some frosting on his suit!

Where are all the Signatures?

One of the main questions I get while on the road is “If this is the Declaration of Independence, where are all the signatures?”

Well, the short answer is: This copy doesn’t have any.

The signed copy of the Declaration of Independence (left) wasn't drafted until a month after the Dunlap Broadsides were printed!

The signed copy of the Declaration of Independence wasn't drafted until August 2nd - almost a month after our copy (right) was printed!

The longer answer is:

Contrary to popular belief, the Declaration of Independence was not signed on July 4th, 1776 – that’s the day it was sent to the printer. As soon as Thomas Jefferson was finished drafting the language, he entrusted his manuscript to a local printer named John Dunlap, who quickly printed an estimated 200 copies (or “Broadsides”) of the Declaration of Independence. These “Dunlap Broadsides” were not signed because they were considered newspapers or announcements – not legal documents. Horseback riders carried the copies out to the thirteen colonies to be read aloud to the citizens and the soldiers.

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Angry American soldiers topple a statue of King George after hearing the Declaration read aloud

George Washington had his copy dictated to the troops in New York City. Angered by the long list of British injustices and abuses, the soldiers toppled a statue of King George and melted it down into bullets to be used in the Revolutionary War!

Over the course of the next month, Dunlap Broadsides circulated throughout the thirteen colonies, spreading the message (paraphrasing, of course): England has gone too far, we have declared our independence, get ready to fight.

It wasn’t until August 2nd, 1776 that the Continental Congress got together and drafted the ceremonial, handwritten copy of the Declaration of Independence. The members of Congress who were present signed the document. The rest of the 56 signatures were collected over the next few years. The hand-written copy now permanently resides in the National Archives in Washington D.C.

Of the original 200 Dunlap Broadsides, only 26 are known to exist today. Our print may not be signed, but it is the only copy touring the nation – completing the epic journey that those horseback riders started over two-hundred-thirty-three years ago!

Why does the Declaration of Independence have a Blog?

It might be appropriate to begin this blog with a lofty observation on civic education in America… Or I could launch into a lengthy discourse on the importance of looking into history to find inspiration for the present.

But as I think more about it, I find my mind wandering to a subject far less academic and (in my opinion) far more important: the American people.

In my journeys with the Declaration, I’ve met all kinds of people; some are young, some are old, some are rich, some are poor, some are liberal, some are conservative. But – at the risk of sounding corny – all of these people are, first and foremost, patriots. They travel hundreds of miles across state and county lines to stand before the Declaration of Independence, absorb its message, and walk away with a renewed sense of pride and responsibility for their country.

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A crowd in Beaufort, NC lines up to see the document.

In the year 2000, Norman Lear purchased this copy of the Declaration of Independence with the express purpose of bringing “the people’s document” (as he calls it) to the people. Over the past ten years, the Declaration of Independence Road Trip has visited 40 states and attended events like the Olympics, the Indy 500, and both the Democratic and Republican National Conventions!

As the official docent for the Declaration of Independence, it is my job to bring the Declaration to libraries, schools, and museums across the country so that every American – regardless of geography or economic means – can be inspired by its message. Everywhere I go, I meet passionate and excited people who are working to better their communities and their country. Through this blog, I hope to introduce you to some of these people and give you a sneak peek into my travels and adventures with the Declaration of Independence.

Feel free to send me questions and I’ll do my best to answer them. You can email me at doiroadtrip@gmail.com or follow me on Twitter @doiroadtrip. I look forward to hearing from you!