Policymakers | General Education

Pause to consider freedoms on Constitution Day

SHREVEPORT TIMES   |  September 17, 2009 by Editorial

You may not have the day off, there will be no fireworks along the riverfront, and your American flag may not be flying but rolled up neatly in the hall closet, but today is Constitution Day.

No need to minimize Independence Day, but if July 4 marks our nation’s declaration of independence, the ratification of our U.S. Constitution 222 years ago today was critical to ensuring our free nation survived.

Perhaps each of us can’t muster eloquence concerning its provisions, but we know deep in our American marrow that the Constitution guarantees us certain rights.

So Kanye and Congressman Joe Williams may face public scourging for speaking their minds, but they face no legal sanctions. Neither do those who verbally challenge their congressmen and women. And if we do get crossways with the law, we’ve got a right to a lawyer and a speedy trial before a jury of regular folks.

The same document that allows Christians and Jews to gather in the house of worship of their choosing also allows thousands of Muslims to pray for the “soul of America” later this month at the U.S. Capitol. That’s a two-fer: religious freedom and freedom of assembly.

We may not all carry or keep firearms, but we know the right to bear arms is within reach.

That you are reading this newspaper is a tribute to America’s recognition that an unfettered press—and thus an informed citizenry—is vital to a free society.

But there are fears that Americans are getting fuzzier on much of what’s in the Constitution and its 27 amendments. The American Council of Trustees and Alumni has issued a report card that shows none of the top 20 national universities, as ranked by U.S. News & World Report, require their students to take a broad course in American history or government. And only 11 out of 100 leading universities ensure their students graduate having taken at least one broad course in American history or government.

But there are always teachable moments for young and old. The health care debate can help remind us of the separation of powers: President Obama may desperately want health care reform but Congress has to make it happen. Sonya Sotomayor’s recent appointment to the Supreme Court reminds us of the power granted to nine robed jurists to decide what fits the Constitution and what doesn’t.

So take a moment today to consider the value of the Constitution and the precious but enduring framework for our nation that it is. Or don’t. This is, after all, a free country.


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