From the right: The Constitution lest we forget
Published: Tuesday, September 24, 2013
Updated: Tuesday, September 24, 2013 02:09
Monday morning, first class of the day. It’s an 8 a.m. and I make my way through the halls of Horton up to the second floor. Out pops the notebook, pencil and pocket copy of the U.S. Constitution, as the rest of the class settles in. Soon, Professor Siggelakis enters excitedly, ready to the review the founding document once more. Her book hits the podium and the 50 minute adventure begins. Understanding, and at times deciphering, what is found in the Constitution beginning with the words, “We the people of the United States…” In an average Political Science course, the U.S. Constitution will be reviewed, acknowledged and studied ad nauseam. A scrutinizing of the Article I and all the expressed powers of the legislature until one is blue in the face. An analyzing of each Bill of Rights, underlining every word, marking up every turn of phrase, all the while the questions start bubbling in one’s head: What for? Why care about what a bunch of dead guys wrote? Who cares what’s in the Constitution?
Surely, all this constitutional study can be tedious, uneventful, exasperating, and at times fun in the strongest, sarcastic sense of the word…and yet for all that, I still love it! Reading what some may call an outdated document is never tiresome and never a bore. For what was said over 200 years ago by the likes of James Madison and John Adams matters today. What is written in our Constitution not only affects those in government, or those who bother to read it. The lives of every American, living past, present and future are touched by the Constitution. The document is more than some simple amendments, and more than mere words and phrases. The document is we the people.
The document, in its short nature started the greatest experiment in self-government the world has ever seen. It forged the belief that government could come not from the ruling class, but from the consent of the people. A belief that government in its most basic form is: For, by and of the people.
In honor of Constitution Week, (which began on Sept. 17, marking the official ratification date of the document) it is imperative to educate, to speak on the importance of this document, which at times many of us tend to overlook. The Constitution, it would seem, is seen as an historic artifact, cased in glass as a showpiece, not the working blueprint for government in the United States. In this age of iOS 7, Miley exploits, Candy Crush and the rigors of day-to-day life, it is easy to overlook the basic American ideas; or to at least see them as passé. Yet, a document so enshrined in the concept of government being: For, by and of the people, is a document that must be preserved and protected, by our leaders in Washington, and all citizens across this country. Simply, it’s our duty.
Vigilance is crucial. Once the guard is dropped and the Constitution is left to serve as a dust collector, then who we are as a society and as a people instantly crumbles, and all of our aspirations and principles are irrevocably undone.
To know what the Constitution says, not only for the sake of an exam, but to really know it makes all the difference. Each word, on every page, had special meaning for the framers. Nothing in that document is by accident. The framers were scholars. They were students of history. They studied how governments rise and fall and saw first hand how governments can betray their fundamental principles and their very own citizens.
The U.S. Constitution establishes a government of limited means, one that must draw its consent from the governed. The three separate branches are a concerted effort to divide government and leave power in a system of checks and balances. America in their eyes would be ruled not by a king, but instead governed with the people’s consent, by vesting power in three individual branches: Legislative, Executive and Judicial.
Have we come a long way from the founding of our country? Absolutely! But because times change, that shouldn’t mean fundamental principles change. Principles endure because they are fundamental. The pillars on which a society rests won’t falter, because the grounds shakes. A nation in tune with itself shall not falter and shall never fail. Even for shortsighted gain, the principles that made this country what it is must never alter, and the document which tells who we are as people must never become a mere relic of the past.
The Constitution works. For over two centuries it has guided this nation through civil war, depression, war, reconstruction, prosperity and peace. Have lines been blurred? Have words been stretched? Yes, and yes, but the documents still works. The belief that we could be a self-governing people is as true today as it was when the ink dried from the framer’s quill pens.
So, let us recommit ourselves to the founding. Let us rediscover this document and understand the work started by the framers to form a more perfect union. So that we too can carry on the tradition of perfecting our sacred union.
Nine o’clock tolls. Class is done until Wednesday and sure as summer turns to autumn we’ll be back discussing the Constitution again. Some sigh, others scratch their heads, still pondering the merit to the discussions, but as I walk out the door I am reminded of something eloquently put by George Washington, “The Constitution is the guide which I will never abandon.”
Let that serve as a reminder to us all.