September 17 commemorates the creation of the government – and maybe even the birth of – The United States of America.
On September 17, 1787, 39 of the 55 delegates signed the U.S. Constitution. George Washington, as chair of the convention, was the first to sign. Here we are 236 years and 27 amendments later – and I am wondering how many Americans have read the Constitution in the past few years. We might be familiar with the Bill of Rights, but this past year I have watched confirmation hearings where the judges did not know what Article III refers to.
I often say the U.S. Constitution was brilliantly written, but I also tend to argue that we have a post-constitutional presidency and most laws passed by Congress are unconstitutional. Not to mention, there is an entire faction of Americans whose aim is to abolish the Constitution altogether.
So this year, as Constitution Day probably came and went without many Americans noticing, I encourage everyone to use this as a reminder that maybe we should actually read the U.S. Constitution. If you choose to take on this mission, don’t just start and then stop with Article I or Article III, but read all the way through Article VII. And then…with the understanding that the Amendments are part of the official document as well, start reading through the Bill of Rights.
And then keep reading.
Amendment 12 is interesting – which comes before the “Civil Rights Amendments” (or the Reconstruction Amendments) – another group of amendments some Americans claim to be familiar with. But don’t stop there!
Read through the 16th and 17th and 18th (repealed by the 21st – but still a part of the Constitution so we can have a roadmap of what we have done to our governing document – and what works and what doesn’t). Then keep going…get all the way to the 27th Amendment.
As you read (and don’t just skip to the amendments), consider what you may never have thought about before, why some Americans might want to abolish this document, how well it has stood the test of time so far, where it has failed us, how well the Congress, presidency and judicial system stay within the confines of the constitution – and where exactly the bureaucracy (all those agencies and departments we have given so much power to) comes into play.
Then take a U.S. Constitution Quiz!
Or maybe request a Constitution 101 webinar and we can talk about all these things together!