Sept. 17 marked the 229th anniversary of the signing of the U.S. Constitution. A stereotype of young conservatives is that we love pocket constitutions. I have 200 in my dorm room to use as giveaways at Ithaca College Republicans events this semester. But I don’t pass out Constitutions for entertainment; I do it to honor what the Constitution stands for.
The U.S. Constitution, including the 27 amendments, only contains 7,591 words. Yet it took many years and a fierce debate at the Constitutional Convention to settle on the document that has been the foundation of our nation for the past 229 years. Some people today, however, say that the Constitution is outdated, claiming that the Founding Fathers could not have predicted the advent of the internet, drones or Snapchat, for example. This silly notion belongs to those ignorant of the vision the founders intended for the Constitution.
The Constitution is a framework for our government and our country. It is not meant to address every societal and technological change. Nor should it. Human nature makes it necessary to have a Constitution and, more importantly, have one that prevents the abuse of power. That’s why a separation of power and the system of checks and balances were included. While those who signed the Constitution may have had their own views of what American society should look like, they wanted the U.S. government to be limited enough to allow change to occur organically.
At the 2012 Democratic National Convention, a video was shown that had the statement “Government is the only thing we all belong to.” Not quite. We do not belong to the government — the government belongs to us. Look at the preamble of the Constitution: “We the people, in order to form a more perfect union.” The people have power, and we give the government legitimacy to carry out certain tasks like national defense, taxation and the establishment of a justice system.
The founders knew from the beginning that the Constitution was not just about securing freedom for their own generation. The preamble ends with, “And secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.” We don’t just live for ourselves. We live to pass on the freedoms we have been fortunate enough to be blessed with. For 229 years, the Constitution has made it possible to secure liberty, and it will continue to do so for centuries to come.