Monday, July 4, 2011

Freedom & Responsibility - United States Constitution

by Bill Doughty
What do the Casey Anthony trial, the right to vote, assault weapon restrictions, abortion debate, and the debt ceiling crisis have in common?  For one thing, the U.S. Constitution... 
The Constitution, Bill of Rights and the other amendments outline the rule of law, voting rights and federal-state balance of power, to “establish Justice, ensure Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Prosterity.”
People on both sides of political divides figuratively wrap themselves in the parchment of our founders.  
One side may feel the words are immutable, that the Constitution is a sacred “covenant,” to quote some; the other side may feel the ideas are more important than strict interpretations of the words, a “compass,” a “blueprint,” a “living document,” according to others.  
Both sides struggle with the meaning of the words, then and now.  
Some Supreme Court justices believe in interpreting and obeying the words of the Constitution as perfect, fixed and unwavering; others see the document as imperfect and evolving, an attempt “in Order to form a more perfect Union...”
On Jan. 5, 2011 the U.S. Congress read the Constitution aloud on the floor of the House of Representatives but purposely did not include the original parts allowing and extending slavery or counting African Americans as only three-fifths of a person.  The Constitution did not allow women the right to vote till 1920.  The eighteenth amendment initiated prohibition in 1919, only to be repealed by the twenty-first amendment in 1933. Native Americans did not have the right to citizenship until the 1924.
With all its imperfections and course-corrections, the Constitution -- along with the Declaration of Independence we celebrate this July 4th, 2011 -- is viable and strong for We the People and an inspiration for all people around the world.
The United States Constitution is worth defending for the liberty, justice and peace it tries to guarantee people everywhere; it’s worth reading and understanding for the robust give-and-take debate it most certainly guarantees in our country.
A wise U.S. Marine sergeant major, my dad, told me you cannot have freedom without responsibility.
ANNAPOLIS, Md. (May 27, 2011) Chief of Naval Operations (CNO) 
Adm. Gary Roughead administers the oath of office at the U.S. Naval 
Academy Class of 2011 graduation and commissioning ceremony. 
(U.S. Navy photo by Chief Mass Communication Specialist Tiffini Jones Vanderwyst)
Perhaps our greatest responsibility is to not only defend the Constitution but also read and appreciate how and why it was drafted.  What was George Washington’s critical role?  How did Alexander Hamilton and James Madison contribute?
The nation’s founders, especially Thomas Jefferson and Benjamin Franklin, men who benefited from the Enlightenment, knew they were creating a work that would have to be amended. What they established for us was a sublime system for regulating government and balancing power, reaching compromise, and ensuring freedom with responsibility.
According to historian Eric Foner:
Americans have sometimes believed they enjoy the greatest freedom of all -- freedom from history. No people can escape being bound, to some extent, by their past. But if history teaches anything, it is that the definitions of freedom and of the community entitled to enjoy it are never fixed or final. We may not have it in our power, as Thomas Paine proclaimed in 1776, ‘to begin the world over again.’ But we can decide for ourselves what freedom is. No one can predict the ultimate fate of current understandings of freedom, or whether alternative traditions now in eclipse -- freedom as economic security, freedom as active participation in democratic governance, freedom as social justice for those long disadvantaged -- will be rediscovered and reconfigured to meet the challenges of the new century. All one can hope is that, in the future, the better angels of our nature (to borrow Lincoln’s words) will reclaim their place in the forever unfinished story of American freedom.

Our United States Constitution is one of the core documents recommended in the Navy Professional Reading Program and included in The Declaration of Independence and other Great Documents of American History.  NPRP was introduced to the Navy aboard USS Constitution in Boston on Sept. 19, 2006.
BOSTON (June 3, 2011) USS Constitution greets the guided-missile frigate USS Carr (FFG 52).
(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Kathryn E. Macdonald)

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