CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- In May 1787, a group of leaders gathered in Philadelphia to begin discussing and drafting the U.S. Constitution. They completed their task 226 years ago Tuesday, ending the five-month Constitutional Convention.
U.S. Attorney Booth Goodwin spoke about the Constitution at the Culture Center during Monday's annual Citizenship Day program attended by students from five high schools.
"Only a small number of men were there: 55 came to the Constitutional Convention, but only 41 stayed to the end. Their average age was 43," Goodwin said.
Thirty-nine ended up actually signing the Constitution. "They met in the same room where the Declaration of Independence was signed 11 years earlier."
The Constitution's ability to endure was a direct result of the time when it was created, Goodwin said.
"People had fought a long war to become independent. We needed to create a national character. ...
"There had been nothing like it before. The government had three branches -- each designed to check the other [branches]."
The Founding Fathers also partially avoided some issues, like slavery. They approved the end of all slave importation in 1808, "But the slavery issue would have to be settled sometime in the future," Goodwin said.
"The Constitution has been tested many times. Perhaps its greatest threat was during the Civil War, when our state was born. Then 50 years ago, it was tested again during the civil-rights movement.
"We must continue to aspire to a more perfect union and establish justice where there is not justice," Goodwin concluded.
Students came to Citizenship Day from Cabell-Midland High School, Roane County High School, Liberty High School in Clarksburg, and Woodrow Wilson and Shady Spring high schools in Raleigh County.
The Roane County High School band played "America the Beautiful" and the Horace Mann Middle School Girls Chorus, from Kanawha City, sang "The Star-Spangled Banner."