Americans celebrate "Constitution Day and Citizenship Day" nationally on September 17.

The holiday is a chance to reflect on our nation’s founding document, signed on this day in 1787, and celebrate what it means to be a citizen of our great country. On this day, American schools celebrate by learning about citizenship and the U.S. Constitution, one of the most remarkable and enduring testaments to the power of the people exercised through their democracy.

I consider this day an opportunity to reflect on what it means to be a citizen of the United States. We frequently only think of citizenship as conferring rights – the right to vote, to assemble, to practice our religions – but on this day I am reminded that citizenship also confers important responsibilities. In our “of the people, by the people, for the people” government, we are empowered by our rights, but we also have a duty to one another, to our communities, and to our nation as a whole. The fulfillment of these civic duties ensures that our democracies continue to function and evolve to the changing needs of the people. Some of these obligations are clear cut and simple, like paying taxes. Others are more abstract; being an “engaged citizen” requires us to be an informed participant in the life of our country, both at the local and national level, and to engage actively in all aspects of civic life.

Both of our democracies, here in Bulgaria and in the United States, have seen hardships of late. And I believe that both of our democracies will emerge stronger through the robust engagement of our citizens with their governments. While the process of government formation here in Bulgaria may seem long and difficult, everywhere I have traveled across this great country, I have been impressed with how civically active Bulgarians are and how motivated they are to build a better future for themselves and for their children.

I have often said that democracy is a process, not an end state, and that process is so much better and the results so much stronger when everyday citizens are actively involved in the civic process. As Bulgaria celebrates thirty years of its own constitution this year, I encourage my fellow Americans and Bulgarian friends to stay informed and engaged politically, and to remember your civic duties. Keep making your voices heard and keep voting! 

Constitution Day and Citizenship Day reminds us of the innate power of each and every individual to make a difference. As someone who became a citizen of the United States through immigration, I have a unique perspective on the power of citizenship. As the Ambassador of the United States to Bulgaria, I am first and foremost a citizen engaged in public service to my nation, which is the highest calling any citizen can aspire to. That service, which has been my pleasure to perform in many nations, is not always easy, but it is always an honor – and one I celebrate anew on this important day.  

H. E. Mrs. Herro Mustafa, Ambassador of the United States of America to the Republic of Bulgaria

The photo was provided by the Embassy of United States in the Republic of Bulgaria.