Guest column submitted by U.S. Senator Mike Crapo
In a letter accompanying the Constitution, George Washington wrote about the challenges in developing our nation's Constitution. He wrote, "on the present occasion, the difficulty was increased by a difference among the several States as to their situation, extent, habits and particular interests…thus, the Constitution which we now present is the result of a spirit of amity, and of that mutual deference and concession, which the peculiarity of our political situation rendered indispensible…we hope and believe; that it may promote the lasting welfare of that Country so dear to us all, and secure her freedom and happiness, is our most ardent wish."
That our inspired Constitution, born through months of debate, disagreements and multiple drafts, has endured for 225 years is due in part to our Founding Fathers' dedication and ability to overcome the contention. The process produced the greatest government and longest surviving constitution in the world. We have a system, outlined in the Constitution, which guarantees Americans basic principles of individual rights and freedoms, limited government, rule of law, sovereignty of the people, separation of powers and representative government.
Recognizing the strength and importance of the Constitution, in 1956, Congress established Constitution Week starting each September 17 on the anniversary of the signing of the Constitution. Later, in 2004, Congress passed legislation establishing September 17 as Constitution Day and Citizenship Day. This day is meant to commemorate the formation and signing of the Constitution and recognize all who have become citizens. The law urges civil and educational authorities to make plans for the observance of this day and offer civics educational programs focusing on the meaning and importance of the Constitution.
Constant vigilance is required to preserve our government, a government that prioritizes life, liberty and freedom. After the signing, Benjamin Franklin, a delegate to the Constitutional Convention, was asked by a woman outside the hall, "What have you given us?" Franklin replied, "A republic madam, if you can keep it." Understanding our nation's foundation, appreciation for the price continuing to be paid for our freedom and consideration of diverging views are important parts of maintaining our exceptional form of government and national strength. Americans should reflect on our rich history made possible by the work of our Founding Fathers and many who have followed them in contributing to the preservation of our unique country and way of life.
Time and again, America has been tested by challenges along the path to our collective future. Time and again, the American people proved better and stronger than the tests. While the clash of ideas that regularly occur in America may seem frustrating, history has proven that workable solutions can surface from respectful and committed debates. Amity prevailed in the forming of our enduring Constitution and it forms the foundation for the joining of the states through our Constitution and unified dedication to the preservation of liberty. With the shaping of our nation as a lasting example, amity can prevail again in meeting our current challenges.
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