“We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.”
This is where it began. It is also where we are today.
Knowing full well that anything I would author here would be influenced and composed BEFORE the advancing shadow of Tuesday’s election, I have decided to commit a willful act of cut and paste plagiarism in the service of new beginnings.
Regardless of which side has won, if sides still matter today, we need to find a starting point for the years ahead.
I am hoping to find once again a lasting tone of civility that will prevail, if only for a moment or a quick Facebook share. Recent history may not have given many of us hope, but here today is a chance for a new beginning.
The very platform of freedom from which the Press stands is the same one that you and I do as well. It is a powerful place to begin, to be free. And as a writer, I make myself vulnerable, to be naked again in my quest to raise my voice.
Our conversations within our communities have advanced us well over these years and in turn, these civic dialogues have rewarded us by making us stronger in the sharing of our journey, in doing the hard thing when the time may not have been right.
Long before Facebook codified the words "Like" and "Share," we gathered and fought for ways to advance the common man. Sometimes, we did it together and other times, one went alone to show us the way. Again, in the history of the world this is rare, but we have shown time and time again that equality and freedom are worth the struggle.
Today is another day and so, in the interest of us moving onward, I offer these provocative words I dare say many may not have read in a long, long time. I know I hadn’t.
I retreat here to find inspiration, and it is my hope that as we are (at the time of my writing this) just days away from one of the most expensive elections in our history, you will join me. It is a powerful read and one that I feel can cleanse the palette after a campaign season of much party rancor and abuse of money.
The Bill of Rights (finally ratified Dec. 15, 1791) is where we began. I have elected to use the original language as written.
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.
A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringe
No Soldier shall, in time of peace be quartered in any house, without the consent of the Owner, nor in time of war, but in a manner to be prescribed by law.
The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.
No person shall be held to answer for a capital, or otherwise infamous crime, unless on a presentment or indictment of a Grand Jury, except in cases arising in the land or naval forces, or in the Militia, when in actual service in time of War or public danger; nor shall any person be subject for the same offence to be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb; nor shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself, nor be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation.
In all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy and public trial, by an impartial jury of the State and district wherein the crime shall have been committed, which district shall have been previously ascertained by law, and to be informed of the nature and cause of the accusation; to be confronted with the witnesses against him; to have compulsory process for obtaining witnesses in his favor, and to have the Assistance of Counsel for his defence.
In Suits at common law, where the value in controversy shall exceed twenty dollars, the right of trial by jury shall be preserved, and no fact tried by a jury, shall be otherwise re-examined in any Court of the United States, than according to the rules of the common law.
Excessive bail shall not be required, nor excessive fines imposed, nor cruel and unusual punishments inflicted.
The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people.
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.
As I revisit the inspirational words of our Constitution and Bill of Rights, I am reminded of my own history spent in Washington where I had the honor of visiting those documents on display at the National Archives.
I ponder those words President Truman uttered in 1952 at the installation of these documents in their current home, realizing his original meaning has traveled far beyond said ceremony: "We are engaged here today in a symbolic act. We are enshrining these documents for future ages.”
May we forever remember and respect how wonderful, special, and rare these words are in any time. May we continue to honor as well as preserve the words' eternal meaning, matching our fight for freedom and equality with the same fervor the Founding Fathers employed when they painstakingly etched these words on paper for generations to come long after they were codified. It may be hard to make out said words as they have faded with age, and so our gaze must be sharp when things get hazy.
The challenge in moving toward the future after a bitter election is that we, too, must always strive to be a more perfect union, to be these United States.
The Future Needs All of Us.
This week you get a bonus of 6 events in your calendar. (You’re welcome.) Click me for Events.
*I understand there are other amendments that would follow in the years after the adoption. For space considerations, I have only reprinted the orinignal ones here. To see them all, visit http://www.archives.gov/