ďWe, the people of the United States, in order to form a more perfect Union, establish justice, insure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general welfare, and secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.Ē
Those are familiar words to any current or former student of American history, but the significance of that statement ó and the document which it introduces ó is seldom formally celebrated by the people whose freedoms are guaranteed by it.
Even today, which is the 222nd anniversary of its signing.
Sept. 17 is not a federal holiday. It isnít an observance thatís shown on most commercially produced calendars. Outside of school government classes, some patriotic civic organizations and a few editorial pages, the day is hardly remembered at all.
Yet, consider: How much of what we as Americans enjoy in our country has been made possible by the provisions included in that grand document? And why donít those citizens use the anniversary of its signing on Sept. 17, 1787, by members of the Constitutional Convention to direct more attention to it?
While the Constitutionís basic function is to outline how this country governs itself, it also sets out the visionary fundamentals of individual rights protection in its first 10 amendments, known collectively as the Bill of Rights.
The significance of a workable constitutional document, and the difficulty of devising one to satisfy a diverse people, has been illustrated repeatedly by the turmoil surrounding other nationís attempts to draft a governing document of their own.
The difficulties with which those efforts bear fruit should prompt a renewed appreciation of the Constitution of the United States. Itís a relatively simple yet profound document that, with only a relatively few amendments, has protected the rights of Americans and been the instruction manual of democracy as we know it for more than two centuries.
Unfortunately, most Americans are woefully ignorant of what the Constitution says, and of what it means. Without doubt, the interpretation of how its provisions apply to specific situations can vary widely, as shown by decisions reached by the U.S. Supreme Court. But the Constitution is important not only in an academic or judicial setting, but also in the daily lives of citizens who seek information about their government, who face criminal charges, who pause to worship and are engaged in a host of other legal activities freely and without interference.
Constitution Day is as important an observance in the history of the United States as Independence Day, and perhaps more so. Without the Constitution, the bold proclamations made on July 4, 1776, probably could not have endured.