OUR VIEW: In the years after the American Revolution, an infant nation in the New World seemed perpetually on the verge of collapse. Neither a feeble Congress nor the one-term presidents were able to mediate disputes between the 13 states, and they couldn't pay the country's debts, particularly to war veterans. Such problems have toppled any number of governments over the course of history.
In the years after the American Revolution, an infant nation in the New World seemed perpetually on the verge of collapse. Neither a feeble Congress nor the one-term presidents were able to mediate disputes between the 13 states, and they couldn't pay the country's debts, particularly to war veterans. Such problems have toppled any number of governments over the course of history.
But the brilliant minds and brave leaders who had declared our independence from royal oppression and parliamentary overlords refused to give up on the principles that sparked the defeat of the British empire. In 1787, those leaders gathered again in Philadelphia for another attempt to fashion a viable means of self-rule that nurtures the human yearning for freedom.
On Sept. 17, those leaders emerged with the Constitution, "We the People of the United States, in order to form a more perfect Union ... ." This new guiding document offered a clearly defined role for three branches of government - legislative, executive and judicial - with checks and limited powers intended to prevent any single authority from usurping the sole power to apply force or to tax the fruits of our labors. This is the model that has survived 222 years of policy conflicts, external threats and a civil war. This is the model that has inspired other nations to shed the chains of tyranny.
The Constitution was imperfect from beginning, however, requiring an immediate set of amendments called the Bill of Rights that carried forth the self-evident truths of personal liberty and government accountability. Later on, other changes were required to recognize the equal humanity of African-Americans and other people of color as well as the voting rights of women. Such revisions were expected by the Constitution's authors.
"The basis of our political systems is the right of the people to make and to alter their Constitutions of government," said President George Washington in his 1796 farewell address. "But the Constitution which at any time exists, 'till changed by an explicit and authentic act of the whole people is sacredly obligatory upon all."
Since 1956, Congress has called for Americans to honor the six days following Sept. 17 each year as Constitution Week, to remember the history of the fundamental law of this land, and to consider its timeless wisdom for our modern challenges.
In the East Valley, we are fortunate to have a 7-year-old event in Gilbert that serves as one of the nation's largest celebrations of civic pride this week. You can join thousands of your neighbors at Mesquite High School Saturday night to see an array of booths, history re-enactors and entertainment that illustrate what makes the United States so special.
If you can't be there Saturday, still take time over the next few days to reflect on everyone's duty to "preserve and protect" the Constitution.