This blog was excerpted from the Congress Week website introduction written by Dr. Jay Wyatt, president of the Association of Centers for the Study of Congress (ACSC) and Director of Programs and Research, Robert C. Byrd Center for Congressional History & Education, Shepherd University.
Congress Week is the creation of the Association of Centers for the Study of Congress, an organization of more than 40 institutions which has a goal of promoting a better public understanding of Congress as the branch of government closest to the people. We want to encourage a focus of Congress each year during the month of April, the month in 1789 when Congress first got down to the business of governing the United States under its new Constitution.
While Congress is a co-equal branch of government, the action today seems to be embodied in the president, not Congress. We have President’s Day every year, we conduct grand inaugural events when presidents are sworn in, and the news tends to focus on the president as the one individual who should govern the nation. Yet when each new Congress convenes every two years, the public pays hardly a nod to the event. So Congress Week is a devise, a non-partisan reminder, that Congress bears co-equal responsibility for governing the nation. Its rich and colorful history needs more of the nation’s attention.
In coming years we hope Congress Week will spark a closer examination of the First Branch of government, encourage schools to develop programs to highlight the work of Congress, and stimulate more scholarly research into Congress by a wide range of disciplines.
Congress has governed the nation for 226 years, and we hope it will survive and thrive for centuries to come. It can only do so if the nation continues to understand and appreciate the Constitution of the United States and the meaning of representative democracy. James Madison and other founders believed strongly that an informed citizenry was the best hope for good government. We hope Congress Week will contribute to an informed citizenry.
To read more about Congress Week and see the way others around the country are celebrating it, go to www.congressweek.org.