Melinda and I met Harley-riding PBS superstar Peter Sagal (center) last week. He taught us why the US Constitution is great cause for celebration on Memorial Day.

Following the civil war, the final Monday in May became known as “Decoration Day” honoring the hoards of soldiers who died in our nation’s bloodiest war.  They were fighting over basic human rights not yet guaranteed in the US Constitution.

Yesterday was the final Monday in May and I was surprised to learn that “Memorial Day” wasn’t an official American holiday until 1971.  Maybe that’s because all of my life it has been the unofficial first day of summer. I didn’t grow up knowing anyone who had died that served in the US military.  I’ve never visited a grave on Memorial Day.

Melinda and me posing with Peter Sagal. He sounds much taller on his NPR radio show: Wait, Wait…Don’t Tell Me.

This year I experienced the unofficial first day of summer differently. Last week Melinda and I were invited  to meet Peter Sagal, the host of Constitution USA , an impressive PBS documentary celebrating the United States Constitution. US Bank Wealth Management sponsored the documentary and they brought him back to Minneapolis for a lecture at their Ascent offices, in the US Bank headquarters.

Sagal traveled the country on his Harley asking people about their thoughts and feelings about the US Constitution: the documentary includes angry fundamentalists and also recently naturalized US Citizens who fled persecution and found their dreams in the US Constitution. At 225 years old, it’s the shortest and oldest constitution on earth — enduring intense anger and joy everyday. Through Peter Sagal’s work we discovered the US Constitution isn’t history, it’s our civic religion.

With the conditions of political in-fighting today, I wonder if contemporary civic leaders could recreate the Constitution. My father served in the Army, my father-in-law served in the Navy. We have friends who served and friends whose children are serving today. I am grateful, even if all I know how to do is say THANK YOU for defending the Constitution of the United States of America.

Good leaders make a habit of celebrating the courageous leaders who carved the path before us.  And we show respect for our freedoms with dedication, hard work and pause to say thank you.

Please share with us: who did you remember yesterday?