President’s Message – July 2017
On July 4th of each year Americans engage in backyard barbecues, picnics in the town park, parades down Main Street and, always, our celebrations culminate in spectacular fireworks as if to remind us of the “bombs bursting in air”. Hopefully, at least some of us still take a moment to reflect on the brave men and women who did the unimaginable: declared colonial independence from the world’s superpower, wagering their lives and all they held dear for the cause of freedom.
Those (mostly) men who sweltered in the heat of Philadelphia crafting our Declaration of Independence had a clear vision of basic human needs: life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. They dreamed of a world for their children in which the government’s needs could not supersede the needs of its citizens. They envisioned a land where everyone was free to worship, or not, as they choose without the government dictating their spiritual beliefs. They understood that a society could only survive if each man (and woman) was free to pursue his own goals and that each American was responsible for his or her own destiny…..good or bad.
They dreamed of a land where the circumstance of our birth was not what determined your status in life. They believed in an America where anybody could grow up and be President.
They gave us the gift of our Constitution and it pains me so that so little attention is paid to this amazing document in our public – or private – schools any longer. Even Advanced Placement American History classes do not pay appropriate homage to this incredible exposition, one that is even more historically significant than the Magna Carta, the Bible excepted. If there is a History teacher in America today that makes the Federalist Papers, the Anti-Federalist Papers, and every President’s biography, required reading you are my hero.
This piece of parchment is the very foundation of our lives; it is the yardstick by which all laws are made and followed. It protects our rights as citizens from excessive government influence. Americans are not all of one ethnic group, yet this near quarter-century old text is what continues to bind us all together.
This one document codifies that our government exists to protect our rights and has no legitimate power to deprive any citizen or group of citizens of any of their rights without due process of law. How forward thinking was that in 1787???? How critical is that today?
There is so much obnoxious rhetoric in today’s politics regarding the Constitution that there are days I could weep. There are those that consider themselves pragmatists and insist that our Constitution is a “living document” that is anachronistic and subject to reinterpretation. Others are strict adherents that cannot stomach the idea that it is possible that our founding fathers could not have anticipated every eventuality. Some call the former tyranny and the later blind zealotry.
Sadly, I hear name-calling and pigeon-holing happening on both sides of the aisle today, all in the name of our Constitution and it doesn’t matter what the issue is or how it affects you and I. The only purpose I can see that it serves is to create sound bites and twitter shares. Thankfully, our system of checks and balances exists to intercede and, where necessary, mediate contrasting interpretations. I can’t recall ever seeing the media included as part of our checks and balances, though. Mainstream media exists in a bubble of freedom, protected by the First Amendment, and I’m okay with that, despite the rampant bias. A society without a free press is, well, Nazi Germany.
We should all be educated enough to understand that the media has mostly devolved into an opinion stream and rarely is impartial enough to be taken literally.
But on this Independence Day, I am going to dream. Like our Founding Fathers.
I’m going to dream of a world in which people of different views could have courteous discussions. One in which having a different idea did not automatically brand you as inferior but rather served as a catalyst for creative solutions. A world in which violence is never the response.
I will dream of a world in which hate is merely how you feel about brussel sprouts, not people who think differently than you.
I dream of a world in which we cite the Constitution out of respect for the rule of law and not out of convenience. I want an America where people have intelligent conversations about how Roe v. Wade was, in a complicated opinion, linked to the First Amendment and was that proper?
The brave men (and women) in 1787 knew that to be successful as a nation, we needed inalienable rights and rules that would provide freedom to our citizens and constraints to our government. I dream that our children will be educated properly so that they will be good stewards of the gifts given to us in the land of the free and the home of the brave.
I dream that, on the Fourth of July in 2267, Americans will still appreciate what was sacrificed so that we could live every day with greater freedom than had ever been possible, and that it will still be true that anyone can grow up to be President.