There are numerous holidays that celebrate and honor all that is good about our country. Independence Day is a festive time when we celebrate the freedoms that we enjoy as Americans. On Veterans Day and Memorial Day we pay tribute to the thousands of men and women who have risked their lives so that we may live in that freedom. September 17th is a holiday that asks us to reflect on the American system of government and the document on which it was founded.
It is important for all people, young and old, to recognize the significance of the Constitution. Not only the words that are contained in the document, but also the way in which it was agreed upon, can teach us a lot about our government and society.
Whereas the Declaration of Independence represents breaking free from a system of government that did not respect individual freedom, the Constitution set in motion the creation of a new kind of government. The Founders’ experiences under the British Crown made them realize the importance of putting constraints on government, particularly the centralized federal government. To keep any one person from acquiring too much power, they put in place a system of checks and balances between three separate branches.
In order to become binding, the Constitution required ratification from nine of the 13 states. Some states approved and ratified it quickly, while others were not satisfied with it as originally written, primarily because it did not include explicit protections like the freedom of speech, press and religion. Securing ratification required a great deal of compromise, which was ultimately achieved through the agreement to include The Bill of Rights.
Two-hundred twenty-six years is a long time when compared to a human lifespan, but in relation to the history of the world, our nation is still quite young. It is amazing to think about all that our nation has accomplished in that time. Our country has had its dark moments, but the ability to overcome such hardships and to improve as a people is thanks in large part to the courage, resilience and belief in individual freedom of our Founding Fathers.
Constitution Day officially is just one 24-hour period of time, but learning more about our founding documents and teaching our children about their significance can and should be done on many occasions.