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FARMINGTON — A crowd gathered Thursday at Orchard Park in Farmington to celebrate the Constitution and the beginning of a week that honors the country's founding document.

"Today, the Constitution still stands as an icon for freedom for people around the world," said Diane Halvorson, vice regent of the Daughters of the American Revolution Desert Gold Chapter.

More than 40 people — including veterans, local officials, state lawmakers and New Mexico Attorney General Hector Balderas — met at the park for the event.

Farmington Mayor Tommy Roberts read a proclamation declaring Sept. 17 to 23 Constitution Week. He said the Constitution is relevant every day.

Kevin Mauzy and Robert Bassett, who both wore red, white and blue shirts with the phrase "We the people," agreed.

"It's been a model for freedom around the world," said Mauzy, of Bloomfield.

Today, many people forget how relevant the Constitution is in their lives, but it's just as important now as when the Constitutional Convention signed it 228 years ago, he said. Those founding fathers met in Philadelphia on Sept. 17, 1787.

"I believe that they did not want a government that had total control over the people. I believe they wanted a government by the people, for the people," said Bassett, of Farmington.

Bassett feels so strongly about this that on Tuesday he became a naturalized American citizen. For more than three decades, he lived in the U.S. as a Canadian national. Now, Bassett can vote and wants to turn around the country because "it's in really bad shape right now," he said.

Before Thursday's ceremony ended and more than a dozen veterans rang a large golden bell, Balderas told the crowd that he grew up in a family that was not powerful. He said Wagon Mound, where they lived, was a forgotten town.

But the Constitution gave him hope in government, he said. It holds elected officials accountable and promotes equality under the law, he said.

Balderas also encouraged young people and others to fight for those foundational values. One person's ignorance can be dangerous to everyone else, he said.

There is no way to prevent every problem in the country, he said, "but we're all committed to make this nation a better place."

"I know we can work together," he said.

Dan Schwartz covers government for The Daily Times. He can be reached at 505-564-4606 and dschwartz@daily-times.com. Follow him @dtdschwartz on Twitter.

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