SAB 2013 US Constitution Day Essay Contest Winner
My Observations of the Constitution
What is the Constitution? Maybe it is just a relic – an old piece of parchment, worn with time and age, kept on display for the odd history class or vacationing tourist to see. There are certainly those who think that way. After all, what significance can an old piece of paper have in such a rapid, technologically advanced age? On the other hand, there are also those who hold to the Constitution, who treasure it, who go away to distant lands and give everything they have for this nation. To these people and those who honorably commit themselves to public service we owe an honest introspection into our cause, our principles, and our purpose.
I saw the Constitution when I was younger on display at the National Archives in Washington. I have to admit, I was of the former group mentioned above. I didn’t understand what I was seeing at the time, being just a boy. I lacked the proper historical context. It’s only now, in adulthood, that I can look back and appreciate that moment.
The Constitution was forged from a long sequence of actions carried out by men who held the highest commitment to freedom, justice, and righteousness. It began with defiant acts of protest against unjust policies of tyranny and taxation by the British king. These protests developed into a showdown between American militia – who were ragtag bands of common citizens, just like us – and Great Britain, who was a superpower undefeated in war with a military that dominated the oceans and continents. Our forefathers faced this foe, both on the battlefields and in Congress, certain to hang for treason should they fail. It was their courage and dedication in the face of personal risk and overwhelming odds that won the day.
They did not just win the war. They changed human history by writing the Constitution and establishing the United States of America – a republic, founded by the people, for the people. Power was equally balanced amongst the Congress, courts, and president with the states retaining autonomy within the Union. Citizens were guaranteed the right to speak their minds, practice their faith, elect their leaders, and gather in protest. They would not be barred from having arms or subject to tyrannical abuses in the courts. These things seem normal and unremarkable to us today, but this was a revolutionary break from the dogmatic monarchies and aristocracies of the past. It was the culmination of a Renaissance that reversed a thousand years of darkness.
America was not perfect then and still is not perfect, but that was only the beginning of the task – the start of a dream that has since passed on for each successive generation to realize, preserve, and improve in their own way for the next. From Gettysburg, Iwo Jima, and Normandy to Vietnam and Afghanistan today, the fight for liberty and justice continues and challenges us to create our own history.
We are the heirs of that legacy.