A celebration of the U.S. Constitution
"We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, 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."
It is hard to imagine a finer crafting of intent and purpose of an important document than this preamble to the U.S. Constitution. After it was written and ratified, the Constitution went into effect and became the supreme law of the land on March 4, 1789.
Following the confusing, weak and unworkable Articles of Confederation, the framers of the Constitution attempted to create a stronger, more coherent federal government. Fast-forward 224 years, and this "living document" provides guidance on most trials and tribulations a country may face. Where it is silent, Congress, the states and/or the courts are at liberty to speak to the omission(s) on the part of the Founding Fathers.
Clearly the Founding Fathers couldn't foresee the world we live in today. Had they founded the country a mere half century ago, they still couldn't foresee the world we live in today. So how did they, in a world practically alien to today's, craft a document that still works more than two centuries later?
Thomas Jefferson called the delegates to the Constitutional Convention demigods. These men looked around the world for constitutional theory and adopted what they saw as the best of the best from the thinkers of the day. And just as importantly, they chose a certain amount of ambiguity as they wrote the document, seeing the broader picture rather than the narrow.
Had they written a more specific document, it could very well be outdated today. As it is, however, the Constitution of the United States is still a viable, workable document.
Strict constructionists take the Constitution at its word -- if it isn't spelled out in the Constitution, then the Founding Fathers never intended it to be. On the other side of the coin, more liberal activists see the Constitution as a living document subject to the avalanche of changes that have occurred since it was written.
For instance, the provision in the Affordable Care Act for penalties against those not having insurance was an instance where strict constructionists said the Constitution in no way requires a citizen to purchase a particular product, whereas activists suggested the language of the Constitution did indeed provide the federal government leeway in crafting legislation for the betterment of the country.
The point is that the careful crafting of the Constitution allows its people to have this conversation nearly 225 years later. The courts are abuzz with similar discussions, and the U.S. Supreme Court of Appeals sits patiently as cases wind their way up through the lower courts.
Recently, "CBS Sunday Morning" hosted Louis Michael Seidman, Georgetown University's Professor of Constitutional Law, who spoke about getting rid of the Constitution, as it is an old and outdated document. In the eyes of some, perhaps.
Countries around the world that are new or are rewriting their existing constitutions look to ours for guidance. Will their come a day when our Constitution is irrelevant? Chances are great that the answer is a resounding no.