Constitution Week is an opportunity for Americans to reacquaint themselves with the document
Amidst earthquakes, wildfires, hurricanes, floods, tornadoes and threats of nuclear holocaust, I encourage all Americans to take a few moments to reflect upon the history that spawned our citizens’ can-do spirit when confronted by the unthinkable. We are more than halfway through the annual Constitution Week commemoration established in 1955 by President Eisenhower, who didn’t need much urging to designate an annual date for memorializing the Constitution’s adoption on Sept. 17, 1787.
Ours is the oldest yet shortest written constitution of any government in the world, consisting of four pages and 4,400 words, plus an additional 3,191 words when including the 27 amendments and signatures. How amazing, when we consider the indelible impact those words have had for 230 years!
But as originally written, the Constitution did not set forth requirements for citizens’ rights. This was a major sticking point for some founding states’ representatives. For example, it did not give the right to have cases heard by a jury of “my” peers. It did not contain the words “separation of church and state”; nor did it guarantee all citizens the right to vote.
The right to vote and nine other rights were attached in 1791 as the first ten amendments to the Constitution. Those ten amendments are known as the Bill of Rights. There are now 27 ratified amendments to the Constitution, which has been modified only 17 times.
Here are several interesting facts about the Constitution:
•The Constitution divides the government into its three branches: legislative, judiciary, and executive, and describes the powers allotted to each branch. It was intended to prevent too much power being allotted to one particular arm of the government.
•The Constitution outlines the procedures for going to war.
•The word democracy does not occur in the Constitution, which outlines the American form of government as a Republic.
•The only crime defined in the Constitution is treason.
•The Constitution neither prohibits nor encourages that the President and the Vice President be from the same party.
Wise leaders have stated repeatedly during our sometimes turbulent history that America is an IDEA, not a PLACE. The concept of this idea was revolutionary in 1787 when Americans gave their fortunes, their freedom and their lives in its defense. It remains revolutionary today. We would do well to study it, to continue debating its tenets, and to rejoice in our own good fortune for having the freedom to carry on the debate.
Laurie D. Triplette
David Reese chapter, Mississippi State Society, Daughters of the American Revolution