Some years ago, I was watching a presidential debate on TV where all three leading candidates contradicted each other regarding a point in our U.S. Constitution. No one seemed to notice the discrepancy, including the moderator and candidates. I realized I had no idea which of the candidates were right and wondered how many people did. That’s when it struck me: the Constitution is the very backbone of our country; a document we live and die for yet I had little knowledge of its actual content. That’s when I began my quest to read and understand the U.S. Constitution.
Like myself, most people cannot assimilate the Constitution because of its difficult terms and old-fashioned language. After much study, I worked my way through the 200-year-old language and discovered all our basic rights as Americans are, in fact, clearly laid out in this historic document. These are broadly stated rights and are open to interpretation. That’s why our Founding Fathers also called for the establishment of the Supreme Court whose job it is to interpret the Constitution.
Noah Webster defines “constitution” as an agreement that sets in place a system of fundamental principles for the government of rational and social beings. A constitution, you might say, lays out the basic rules of the game for people who want freedom for themselves and others.
Written to guarantee the rights of individuals and provide a framework for cooperation, the United States Constitution protects those rights. The result has been, in many ways, the most successful and prosperous society in history. But what might happen if the players forget the rules of the game? Chaos, arguments, and people making up their own rules. If we do not understand what the Constitution actually says, we could give up our rights and not even know it.
In the late 1780s, when the Constitution was being debated and then adopted by the States, newspapers printed its entire text. At that time, people read the document and had strong opinions about its meaning. When I completed my study of the Constitution, I wondered how many others had read it?
I personally went out on the streets and asked people, “Have you read the U.S. Constitution?” Most said “no” or had read it so long ago they couldn’t remember it. I asked, “Would you like to read the U.S. Constitution?” Almost everyone said yes. Encouraged, I then asked, “What would it be like to live in a country where everyone had read and understood the U.S. Constitution?” People of all ages and groups said there would be more respect and cooperation, the government would protect—not violate—our rights and we would work together to make the country a better place to live. They also felt if people did not read the Constitution, there would be confusion, anarchy and fighting—much of what is going on in this country now.
I would like to see as much interest and care in the Constitution now as when it was debated and signed in the 1780s. The Constitution is the document that established our government. It lays out the rules of the game of being an American. It spells out our rights and how to protect them. What kind of football game would be played if the majority of its players had not understood the rules of the game?
Everyone should read and understand the United States Constitution.