We heard it at the 8/28 Restoring Honor Rally at the Lincoln Memorial. We heard it again on Sunday at the 9/12 march at the National Mall and in similar gatherings in St. Louis and Sacramento. It’s a cry from the people to our federal officials to live up to the most basic part of their oaths of office: to uphold and defend the Constitution of The United States. It’s nothing less than a Constitutional Reawakening, and it’s sweeping the nation.
The theme of reaffirming the Constitution as the basic statement of purpose of our national government is one that unites the Tea Parties, hundreds of Congressional Town Hall meetings, the Mount Vernon Statement, Glenn Beck’s call to turn our nation back to God and dozens of first-time candidates’ political campaigns. 21st-century America is falling in love all over again with the 18th-century document that will celebrate its 233rd birthday this Friday.
The conventional media dutifully but uncomprehendingly report that people are fed up, unhappy with a government that seems out of control and cares little about its accountability. Young and old, high-born and streetwise, rural and urban, people all across our land are increasingly determined to take matters into their own hands through peaceful, democratic means. They sense that our nation is somehow on the wrong track, and they want to set it back on its original course towards the future.
They know that they can, of course, because they know their rights as expressed in the United States Constitution, a document that imposes limits on the power of the state in order to maximize our personal liberty.
The idea that such a thing is possible, that the people, rather than the government, are sovereign, was radical when it was first introduced. The Constitution and the Declaration of Independence together create an understanding of liberty grounded in the idea that all persons are created equal. Moreover, this equality entitles each of us, regardless of ethnicity, religion or income level, to the same basic privileges and protections.
These privileges and protections, rights as well as responsibilities as the Constitution defines them, are not antiquated nostrums; they are vital and vibrant concepts that illuminate our daily lives, both private and public. They define not just who we are but also who we can become, as a people and as individuals.
These ideas remain the envy of the world. Every emerging nation and new system of government that wants to be viewed as something other than a tyranny must, if not emulate them, at least play lip service to them.
This was abundantly clear in the years immediately after the fall of the Berlin Wall when former Soviet satellites in Eastern Europe and breakaway republics found that they needed to redefine the relationship between the people who lived there and the government that had ruled them for the better part of a century.
Sadly, some of the very people entrusted with its protection neglect it here at home. Far too many elected and appointed officials manipulate not just its meaning but even its actual language in order to justify statist ambitions.
A proper redress of this grievance is first to ensure that people know word-for-word what the Constitution actually says. Together with Constituting America, an organization founded by Golden Globe-nominated actress Janine Turner, my organization Let Freedom Ring created a website to bring the nation together on September 18, 2010 in a national wave of public readings of the U.S. Constitution.
This website, www.WeReadTheConstitution.com, is a central organizing point for the hundreds of Americans who have already committed to read the Constitution – out loud, proud and in public – on September 18th.
These readings, many of which are taking place in public settings, with others being held as backyard barbeques among family, neighbors and friends, are a national undertaking that will help to reestablish an awareness of our rights and responsibilities as citizens. More than that, they should fuel a national conversation about the type of republic America is supposed to be and the role each of should be ready to play.
Friday, September 17 is officially National Constitution and Citizenship Day. We have chosen the first weekend day following Constitution Day, Saturday September 18, as a day on which we commit ourselves publicly to read, mark, learn and inwardly digest this great document.
Colin Hanna is president of Let Freedom Ring. Find out more at LetFreedomRingUSA.com.
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Colin Hanna is president of Let Freedom Ring, a Pennsylvania-based public policy organization.