September 13, 2006

A VERY SPECIAL BIRTHDAY

By Idaho Senator Mike Crapo

Is September 17th marked on your calendar as a special day in the history of our country? A day to celebrate? Presumably, for most it is not, but this September 17th marks the 219th birthday of the Constitution of the United States of America. It is interesting, considering the centrality of the Constitution to our nationâ??s heritage and future, that its birthday isnâ??t celebrated nearly as expansively as other national holidays. Heralding our countryâ??s independence is worth every last firecracker shot off on the Fourth of July, but independence is meaningless without the rule of law in place to maintain it. This past year, weâ??ve heard much about the â??constitutionalityâ?? of programs or actions taken by the Administration or Congress. Just in the past six months, people have put the constitutionality question to a number of legislative actions, executive orders and administrative rules.These national conversations eventually return to one standard: our Constitution. To be sure, interpretation of our governing document varies, hence the lively debate in issues from statesâ?? rights and interstate commerce to civil liberties and freedom of speech. Still, all hearken back to the standards, structure and instructions found in these Articles of Governance.One entire branch of our government is devoted to interpreting the Constitution, making decisions about whether our lawsâ??instruments of stability, safety and orderâ??are allowed by our governmentâ??s founding document. And, perhaps most remarkably, the Constitution has withstood the test of time and massive change in our society and way of life. In 217 years, we have transformed from a predominately agrarian, isolated economy and society, through the industrial revolution to a world of computers and the phenomenon of high speed instantaneous worldwide communication, accessible to most anyone in the developed and developing world. The tenacity of the Constitution highlights the fact that the notion of liberty, equality and freedom--the very yearning of people to be free from oppression--upon which the structure of the Constitution rests, transcends time and human condition. To be sure, when you read about the Supreme Court hearing arguments about interstate transportation, notions of liberty and equality donâ??t necessarily come immediately to mind. Yet, it wasnâ??t too long ago that the High Courtâ??s eminent domain decision in Kelo v. The City of New London made state and national news because of its clear implications of what constitutes so-called â??public use,â?? and what rights we have with regard to our private property. And our nation is grappling today with the outcome of another Supreme Court decision, Hamdan v. Rumsfeld. What would those 55 men over that long, hot Philadelphia summer have said about the right of Osama Bin Ladenâ??s driver to be tried in a court of law and granted the same rights and privileges as an accused that are granted to American citizens? In these kinds of cases, debate about how the Constitution upholds freedom and liberty is more readily apparent. Our Constitution gives us tools to apply the tenets of a free society to daily governance, and orchestrates the administration of the rule of law. Our freedoms are guaranteed precisely because we adhere to this rule of law, and is why our Constitution remains entirely relevant today. I can think of no more compelling reason to celebrate the birthday of our Constitution. For more information and online activities to celebrate the Constitution, please go to: http://crapo.senate.gov. WORD COUNT: 561