Each year, December is marked by busy shoppers, holiday decorations and abundant Christmas cheer. However, did you know that December also marks another significant holiday for Hoosiers? It marks Indiana’s birthday, commonly referred to as Statehood Day, which is December 11. This year will be the 197th anniversary of the day then President James Madison signed the act admitting Indiana as the 19th state of the Union.
The celebratory event will be held at noon at the Indiana Statehouse, and the celebration will focus on the 1816 and 1851 Constitutions. The year 1816 is significant because it represents the first Indiana Constitutional Convention. Back then, the territorial capitol was in Corydon, Ind., not Indianapolis. Corydon was our first state capitol and home to the first meeting of the Indiana General Assembly. It is interesting to note that the first Constitution provided for free public education through the college level, before universities like IU and Purdue even existed.
In 1851, the citizens of Indiana voted to amend the original Constitution. The new Constitution called for more frequent elections, placed restrictions on state debt and established biannual sessions for the General Assembly. This Constitution has been amended numerous times. Despite these amendments, this 162 year old document still stands as Indiana’s Constitution today and has laid the groundwork for many of the debates still being had on public education and fiscal responsibility.
If you are planning to be in Indianapolis this Wednesday, I encourage you to participate in the celebrations at the Statehouse. However, if you are unable to make it to this year’s celebration, you can still view it via live webcast at www.webinar.in.gov/Indiana. By celebrating this event each year, Hoosiers have the opportunity to reflect on our storied history and that which continues to make Indiana great. Each year, it has become tradition that 4th graders from across Indiana are invited to take part in an essay contest to honor this day.
This year, students were asked to choose their “Hoosier Bicentennial Hero” and share their story. Four winners were chosen from across the state and will be honored at the Statehood Day Celebration for their excellent work. It is inspiring to know that students as young as 4th grade understand what it means to be a Hoosier. It is that pride in their young hearts which assures me that Indiana’s legacy will continue to live on through many future generations of Hoosiers.
I am proud to be a Hoosier, where people in our communities look out for each other and where we value the traditions that our state and country were founded on. I appreciate the efforts we make to support families and to protect the most innocent lives in our society. As we look ahead to 2016, Indiana’s 200th birthday, we must recommit ourselves to achieving a vision for our state and its people.
Each year, we take special pause to acknowledge the many selfless Americans who have made the United States the place that it is today. However, rarely do we think about the hardworking Hoosiers whose leadership and integrity brought us to statehood so many years ago. Today and every day, I invite you to reflect on this rich history and what being a Hoosier means to you, and if you would ever like to share that story, I would love to hear it!