Kansas Library Association Government Documents Roundtable

In 1868, three years after the end of the Civil War, Commander John Logan of the Grand Army of the Republic designated May 30 as a day to honor those who had died in defense of their country.  Issuing General Order No. 11, Logan called upon those who survived to decorate their comrades’ graves with the “choicest flowers of springtime” and arrange “fitting services and testimonials of respect” throughout the country.

Flag photo blogAlthough local tributes had previously been held in various towns, the first large national observance of Memorial Day was held at Arlington National Cemetery May 30, 1868.  Congress would later recognize Waterloo, New York, as the official birthplace of the Memorial Day tradition, as noted by President Lyndon Johnson in his 1966 Memorial Day Proclamation.  For further details on this historical background, see Memorial Day History, U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.

On May 11, 1950, Congress passed a Joint Resolution “requesting the President to issue a proclamation designating May 30, Memorial Day, as a day for a Nation-wide prayer for peace.”  Public Law 512.  With the enactment of the Uniform Monday Holiday Act, effective January 1, 1971, Memorial Day was recognized as a legal public holiday to be observed the last Monday in May.

36 U.S. Code § 116  provides that the President will issue a proclamation each year:

(1) calling on the people of the United States to observe Memorial Day by praying, according to their individual religious faith, for permanent peace;

(2) designating a period of time on Memorial Day during which the people may unite in prayer for a permanent peace;

. . . .

The National Moment of Remembrance Act, passed by resolution of Congress in May 2000 (Public Law 106-579), established a new Memorial Day tradition.  This Act calls upon Americans to pause for a minute of silence–beginning at 3:00 p.m. (local time) on Memorial Day each year–to honor those who gave their lives serving our country.  Setting out to “reclaim Memorial Day as the sacred and noble event” intended, the Act also established the White House Commission on the National Moment of Remembrance, charged with promoting awareness, encouraging state and local participation, and coordinating national commemorations.

In accordance with law and custom, President Barack Obama will soon issue his 2016 Memorial Day Proclamation.  In Kansas and across the nation, the National Cemeteries will observe the day with ceremony, honoring all who have died in service to this country.  As citizens gather with reverence and patriotism, they will pass on these Memorial Day traditions and so preserve the heritage of Memorial Day for future generations.




The first Earth Day in April 1970 was part of a growing movement to raise public awareness of environmental concerns such as air and water pollution, to force environmental protection on to the national Earth-Day-2016-Poster-Earth-Day-Networkpolitical agenda.  Senator Gaylord Nelson of Wisconsin, Representative Pete McCloskey of California, and Denis Hayes from Harvard took the idea of a “national teach-in on the environment” and ran with it.  A date between Spring Break and final exams, April 22, was selected as the date.

When the day came, 20 million Americans coast-to-coast demonstrated in rallies to protest the use of pesticides, toxic dumps, air pollution and a myriad of other activities leading to the deterioration of the environment. The movement gained such momentum that by the end of 1970 the United States Environmental Protection Agency had been created and the Clean AirClean Water, and Endangered Species Acts had been passed.

Earth Day went global in 1990, with 200 million people in over 140 nations participating, according to the Earth Day Network (EDN), a nonprofit organization that coordinates Earth Day activities.

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Do you ever think about how your right to vote came about?  Voting rights in the United States have been a long standing battle.   The eligibility to vote is established both in the United States Constitution and its amendments.  The United States constitution did not originally define who had the right to vote.  Thus states began defining who had this right.  Social change has brought about each of the steps along the time line below.

1776   Only people who own land can vote.

1787 No federal voting standard – States could decide who can vote.

1789 We elected George Washington President (only 6% of the population can vote.)

1848 Citzenship granted but voting denied. (Mexicans living in territories conquered by the U.S.)

1856 Voting expanded to all White men. (Not just property owners)

1868 Former Slaves granted citizenship

1870 15th amendment passed! Vote cannot be denied because of race. https://www.loc.gov/rr/program/bib/ourdocs/15thamendment.html

1872 Women try to vote.  Denied

1912 Women Lead voting rights marches.

1920 Right to vote extended to women.

1964 No special tax to vote.  24th amendment passed. Right to vote in federal elections cannot be denied for failure to pay any tax.                                   https://www.congress.gov/constitution-annotated/

1971 voting age lowered to 18 yr olds.

2001 Should voting rights be taken away from felons?

2002 Federal voting standards are trying to solve inconsistency.

2006 Congressional Districts are at the states discretion.

Kansas Fun Fact:

APRIL 4, 1887

Susanna Medora Salter is the first woman elected mayor of a town in the United States-Argonia, Kansas.


Register to vote:


There are ten federal holidays in the calendar, as defined by 5 USC 6103, and every November 11th is Veterans Day. This date is significant because it marks the end of fighting on the Western Front of the First World War. Fighting ended at 11AM (the local time in France) on November 11, 1918, sometimes referred to as “the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month.” President Woodrow Wilson informed Congress of the terms of the armistice signed by Germany. As an armistice is simply a cease-fire agreement, the war did not officially end until the Treaty of Versailles was signed in 1919.

The carnage of World War I had a major effect on all countries involved, for a time it was referred to as “the war to end all wars.” To honor the veterans who fought, the United States Congress passed a resolution in 1926 recognizing November 11th as Armistice Day. At the time Armistice Day was already a legal holiday in 27 of the 48 states. Armistice Day became a legal federal holiday in 1938 (see the Statutes at Large 52 Stat. 351, for the full text of the act), however, it soon became clear that World War I was not the “war to end all wars.” The Second World War began the next year in 1939 with Germany’s invasion of Poland.

In 1954, Congress changed the holiday’s name to Veterans Day, expanding November 11th from a holiday honoring World War I veterans to a holiday also honoring veterans from World War II and the recently ended Korean War. President Eisenhower issued the first Veterans Day Proclamation (speeches from Presidents and other officials are available from the Department of Veterans Affairs) Today, Veterans Day honors the sacrifices of veterans of all wars, including current and recent conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan. On November 11th, if you happen to see that it is 11AM, spare a thought for the soldiers in the trenches 97 years ago, when the guns of the Western Front fell silent.

For more information on the history of Veterans Day, visit the Department of Veterans Affairs website.

Congressional Baseball

It’s October and baseball is in the air. Divisional playoffs, league championship series, and the World Series are well-known staples of autumn each year.  There is a lesser-known baseball game, however, that occurs each summer – the Congressional Baseball Game. This contest between a Republican team and a Democrat team began in 1909 (organized by Representative John Tener of Pennsylvania, a former professional baseball player) and was inconsistently scheduled until 1962 when it became an annual event. That was the year Speaker John McCormack of Massachusetts revived the traditional congressional baseball game with the support of a new Capitol Hill newspaper, Roll Call, instituting a best-of-five series. Team members each wear uniforms of their home states and/or districts.

Only members of the House played from 1909 to 1949, although there’s no record of any rule prohibiting Senators from playing as well. Senator Harry Cain of Washington became the first when he joinedmizell the Republican team in 1950; since that time both senators and representatives made up both teams. Occasionally former professional baseball players were elected to Congress and would become stars of the game. For example, the Republican team won each year former pitcher Wilmer “Vinegar Bend” Mizel took the mound. In 1971 Delegate Walter Fauntroy of the District of Columbia and Representative Ronald Dellums of California joined the Democrats team becoming the first African-American participants. The first women to break into the lineup were Representatives Ileana Ros-Lehtinen of Florida, Maria Cantwell of Washington, and Blanche Lincoln of Arkansas in 1993.

The popularity of the Congressional Baseball Game has helped it evolve into a fundraiser for three DC area charities: The Boys and Girls Club of Greater Washington, the Washington Literacy Council, and the Washington Nationals Dream Foundation. It is also a hot topic in Congress, it seems.  A quick search of the Congressional Record on Congress.gov (since 1995) using “Congressional Baseball Game” brought up 54 hits!  (pun intended)

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At the Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia in 1787, delegates were assembled for the purpose of reviewing and amending the Articles of Confederation.  What emerged was a new Constitution of the United States, which has endured as our nation’s governing document.  Thirty-nine representatives from twelve state delegations signed the final draft of the Constitution on September 17, 1787.

36 United States Code 106 designates September 17 as Constitution Day and Citizenship Day, to commemorate “the formation and signing on September 17, 1787, of the Constitution and recognize all who, by coming of age or by naturalization, have become citizens.”

36 United States Code 108 requests that the President of the United States issue an annual proclamation designating September 17 through September 23 as Constitution Week; and “inviting the people of the United States to observe Constitution Week, in schools, churches, and other suitable places, with appropriate ceremonies and activities.”

For further background regarding the history of the law, see Constitution Day and Citizenship Day on the Law Library of Congress website.

You can read President Barack Obama’s Constitution Day Proclamation for 2015.

Here are a few additional resources for learning about the Constitution and for passing on the story of Constitution Day:

The anniversary of the adoption of the 19th amendment to the U.S. Constitution was August 26, 2015.  This adoption, 95 years ago, followed ratification by the legislatures of 36 states: Illinois, Michigan, Wisconsin, Kansas, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Massachusetts, Texas, Iowa, Missouri, Arkansas, Montana, Nebraska, Minnesota, New Hampshire, Utah, California, Maine, North Dakota, South Dakota, Colorado, Kentucky, Rhode Island, Oregon, Indiana, Wyoming, Nevada, New Jersey, Idaho, Arizona, New Mexico, Oklahoma, West Virginia, Washington, with Tennessee being the last necessary state.

Here’s a look at some federal resources that can help you learn more about this historic event.

  • See the Joint Resolution that became the 19th amendment from the 100 Milestone Documents. This joint resolution is one chosen from United States history from between 1776-1965
  • From 2013, this is information from the National Archives also shows the Joint Resolution language
  • Teaching with Documents: Woman Suffrage and the 19th Amendment from the National Archives
  • Today’s document from the National Archives-August 18th
  • Topics to research in Chronicling America – The Nineteenth Amendment, from the Library of Congress
  • Digitized photograph collection spanning from 1875 to 1938 of the suffrage movement in the United States, from the Library of Congress
  • Recognizing the 90th Anniversary of the 19th Amendment from the Congressional Record
  • United States Senate history of landmark legislation, the 19th Amendment
  • Historical Highlights of the United States House of Representatives-19th Amendment