NEW PALESTINE — Future military personnel from New Palestine High School, along with past United States military heroes, together unveiled donated replicas of the U.S. Constitution and Bill of Rights during a ceremony at the school Friday morning.
The unveiling was part of a Veterans Day observance that included dignitaries from Hancock County and from around the state. Sen. Beverly Gard, Rep. Bob Cherry and Maj. Gen. R. Martin Umbarger were in attendance, along with numerous current and retired military members.
The high school became the first in Indiana to receive the plaques, which were donated by New Palestine American Legion Post 182 as part of the National Constitution Plaque Initiative. The five plaques measure between 25x32 inches and 29x35 inches and weigh more than 100 pounds each.
“This is a historical day at New Palestine High School,” program narrator and dean of students Al Cooper said.
School officials said they plan to make a special place for the plaques to be displayed outside the school’s main gymnasium.
“We’ve got a carpenter that is building an actual display case,” NPHS Principal Keith Fessler said.
“We plan to put some lighting up there so the plaques will really stand out.”
American Legion Post 182 planned the ceremony with school officials and paid for the plaques, which were estimated at $9,000, with the hope students won’t breeze past them as they roam the halls, but will take time to pause, read and reflect.
“It’s all about the children and the education,” American Legion representative Dave Espich said.
The National Constitution Plaque Initiative began in 1986 when President Ronald Reagan authorized an artist to lift the penmanship from the original documents of the Constitution and Bill of Rights to make bronze printing plates.
The plates then allowed original replicas to be reproduced and placed in schools.
The reproductions were commissioned by Reagan and Chief Justice Warren Burger at the Constitution’s bicentennial in 1987. The initiative was revived in 2010 by the American Constitution Spirit Foundation with the first placement in Richmond, Va.
“Really all I can say is wow!” Gard said.
“What a remarkable event this is and what a magnificent gift to this school and community.”
School and Legion officials say they hope the plaques remind students about the country’s roots.