20 September 2019

NOTE FROM NORM: On Constitution Week

“I doubt too whether any other Convention we can obtain, may be able to make a better Constitution. For when you assemble a number of men to have the advantage of their joint wisdom, you inevitably assemble with those men, all their prejudices, their passions, their errors of opinion, their local interests, and their selfish views. From such an assembly can a perfect production be expected? It therefore astonishes me, Sir, to find this system approaching so near to perfection as it does;”

Benjamin Franklin, September 17, 1787
Constitutional Convention

His mind still sharp, but his body weak and hobbled by age and infirmary, Pennsylvania delegate to the last day of the Constitutional Convention to encourage his fellow delegates to support the conclusion of their work.

He couldn’t deliver the speech himself so he had a fellow member of his delegation, James Wilson, deliver the speech.

In his opening comments he shared what likely were the sentiments of many in the room – although not all – as they prepared to vote:

“Mr. President, I confess that there are several parts of this constitution which I do not at present approve, but I am not sure I shall never approve them…”

Thirty-nine of the remaining 42 delegates at the Constitutional Convention of 1787 signed the Constitution and in doing so they set the stage for the ultimate ratification of the greatest political document the world has ever known.

This past Tuesday, September 17th, the nation quietly observed Constitution Day- the first day of what is intended to be nearly a week of reflection and celebration of one of the world’s oldest living Constitution.

In 1952 a joint resolution of Congress designated September 17th as “Constitution Day and Citizenship Day.”

In 1956, again by joint resolution, it was requested that the President proclaim the week beginning September 17th through September 23rd of each year as “Constitution Week.”

A Democrat, President Harry Truman, issued the first proclamation declaring September 17th as Constitution Day.

A Republican, President Dwight D. Eisenhower, issued the first proclamation declaring September 17th through September 23rd as Constitution Week.

Every President since then, Democrat and Republican, has recognized the enormous power of our Constitution in such a way to issue similar proclamations.

Yet, in a nation so perfectly imperfectly formed we’ve far too often lost sight of the simple majesty of this remarkable document.

There is no doubt that the men who gathered to form the basis of the new nation of the United States of America were flawed in the eyes of modern times.

Truth be told, for far too many of them their view of slavery was as repugnant then as it is now.

Too many waxed poetically about the need for freedom, and liberty and justice for all while depriving those rights for Africans, women and a host of other people who did not meet their standard for assigning “Unalienable” rights to all.

But we find ourselves arguing the case of those who stand firm against the principles of democracy and freedom if we choose to ignore that our nation’s guiding ideals and aspirations are rooted firmly in the words of the Constitution.

Embracing the democratic ideals of flawed men over 230 years ago should not be a difficult task even if we carry the shame of their deprivation of rights of others as part of our national history.

We shouldn’t ever shy away from pointing out the flaws that came with the creation of this nation.  For far too many for far too long we deprived our fellow citizens of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

Their flaws, though, do not diminish the greatness of the document that created a nation that remains a beacon of freedom and liberty for the world.

Imagine a nation so filled with the potential promise envisioned by our Founders that generations of men and women would fight and die for her – that family and friends would take up arms against one another to wage war for her future – that millions would die in battles throughout the world to defend the very ideals and principles of freedom and liberty for all.

Thankfully – mercifully – we don’t have to imagine it because that has been part of the story of America.

I’ve long been of the opinion that the greatness of America lies most deeply in her ideals and those who have been willing to defend them on the fields of battle – in the halls of government – on the streets of our cities – and on the campuses of our colleges and Universities.

It is fitting this week that we all find time to reflect on the Constitution and on the impact it has made in building a nation.

I would encourage you to consider this website https://constitutioncenter.org/ and taking the opportunity to read the information that is shared here that gives tremendous insight in the journey that began over 230 years ago to where we are today.

A journey that began with flawed men and women yearning for freedom and liberty for all – and one that continues today with flawed men and women still fighting for freedom and liberty for all.

And we do so because of this simple truth:

We are a nation of the people.

By the people.

For the people.