” We must pay attention to the Constitution not as a Republican or Democrat or Independent but as an American.
What is the Constitution? What does it mean? What does it do? The Constitution of the United States serves many purposes such as describing the basic organization of the branches of government, it outlines their functions and responsibilities. It also describes the relationship of the States to the federal government. It sets qualifications for office and sets the terms of office as well. But this is only the beginning. I had to ask myself, “What is the soul of the Constitution, what is its heart?” this is what I talk about with you today.
When I think about our founding fathers and what they intended this country to become I always start with a story about Benjamin Franklin. As he walked out of the signing of the Constitution a woman yelled out, “Mr. Franklin, what have you given us?” to which he replied, “A Republic madam, if you can keep it”. In that one statement Mr. Franklin gave us two things, hope and responsibility. We must remember that we are a Republic, not a Democracy…and we must also remember that it is incumbent upon us, the citizen, to make sure our government does what it should, we cannot be complacent or we will lose the very essence of who we are. Immediately you might ask, ‘what is the difference between a republic and a democracy’, simply put a democracy is the rule of the people (think Mob rule) and a republic is the rule of law. Our law is the Constitution. Our Constitution should be seen as a framework wherein the foundation and building of a great nation occurs…it is the scaffolding of a just and righteous government. The Federalist (commonly referred to as The Federalist Papers) remains a great source for understanding the U.S. Constitution, the essays give us a clear reasoning of the philosophy and motivation of the proposed system of government. It is apparent that the authors wanted to inform people on the “why” and that information extends to help future interpretations of the Constitution. This ‘framework’ has served our country well for over 200 years; it is the reason the United States is the greatest nation on this planet. We are the greatest nation on the planet not because we have the largest economy or the best military; it is because of our system of government, a system built from the Constitution. It saddens me that the very thing that has made our country great is being disregarded (at best) and completely perverted (at worst). We have elected officials who seem to have forgotten what our Constitution says or who never knew what it says in the first place. This is especially true at the Federal level, the level for which the Constitution was intended. Elected officials commonly say that the Constitution is silent on an issue and so it is up to the Federal government to take ownership or oversight of that issue. This is wrong in a legal sense and a moral sense. Our founders wanted a limited federal government for fear of centralizing too much power at one level. Article 1 Section 8 of the Constitution outlines the specific responsibilities of the federal Congress but because it does not list every single possible issue legislators are quick to point out that the founders could not have possibly foreseen every future issue and so even though it is not listed there the Feds should be in charge. They underestimated the Founders and show their own lack of understanding. The 10th Amendment discusses this very thing by stating, “The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the states, are reserved to the states respectively, or to the people” What this means is that if an issue arises that is not discussed in the Constitution then that issue is owned by the States and the People, not the federal government. Ever since F.D.R. and his New Deal we have seen the intent of our founding fathers disregarded and the Federal Government take ownership of issues that have nothing to do with effectively and efficiently running the Country. The problem with this is that if we as citizens allow the government to take ownership of an issue they will never let it go, regardless of if they should even have it in the first place. The practical effect of this is that the size and scope of the Federal Government is enlarged and our individual freedoms and liberties are cut back. I believe the individual liberty that makes us American is under attack — infringed upon by unprecedented growth of government, higher taxes and intrusive laws and regulations into the lives of citizens. This all stems from not paying attention to our Constitution. James Madison, one of the authors of The Federalist and the 4th President once said, “In republics, the great danger is, that the majority may not sufficiently respect the rights of the minority.” In addition we need to understand that the Constitution is meant to protect the rights of the few from the will of the many. Here again we see a problem in the modern legislator. They use the Constitution when it suits their needs but disregard it when it doesn’t…the thing about a document like this is that we must always pay attention to it and cannot be driven by the whims and vagaries of a fickle majority. Unless we view the Constitution as protecting the rights of the few from the will of the many then what we claim are ‘rights’ are only privileges granted to the few, privileges that can be revoked at any time. Our greatest moments come from standing by principle (our Constitution) even when it does not suit our immediate needs or it goes against our personal beliefs. Benjamin Franklin once said, “For having lived long, I have experienced many instances of being obliged, by better information or fuller consideration, to change opinions, even on important subjects, which I once thought right but found to be otherwise.” We must pay attention to the Constitution not as a Republican or Democrat or Independent but as an American. If we disregard the Constitution then piece by piece we will lose our freedoms, our liberties, our American Spirit and the greatest experiment in the history of mankind will cease to exist. I do not want that. I believe in our greatness, our dreams, our desires, our future, our destiny, our responsibility. I want to make sure that what has made American great for the past 200 years will continue for the next 200 years. We Americans can make sure that our Country remains the greatest nation on this planet by safeguarding the principals and intent of the Constitution. If we do not then it will be our fault for losing this great system of government. It is up to us; that is our duty as citizens, and I thank Mr. Franklin for reminding me of that.
Senior Executive Policy Advisor to the Mayor
Office of the Mayor Indianapolis, IN