Pop quiz: What holiday do Americans celebrate on September 17? If you said, “Constitution Day” congratulations! You are among a very small minority of Americans who know something of their history. But, is that really important? Why celebrate the Constitution? Who even knows what it says?
A couple years ago the Ohio General Assembly passed legislation (SB-165) that mandated teaching directly from a few of the founding documents, one of which was the U. S. Constitution. While this made some patriots happy, I had to ask, “Why does the State have to pass legislation to mandate this? Shouldn’t this already be part of every student’s history or government class? Does this mean that they haven’t been reading (much less studying) our founding documents? If so, how long has this been going on?”
To answer these questions, I’d like to share a story of a conversation I had recently on an airplane with a fellow passenger. During the usual genial conversation about what we do and why we were traveling, I shared with this gentleman the fact that I was on my way to teach a group how to lead a 12-week Constitution class. He stiffened a bit, pulled back ever so slightly in his seat and asked me, “Are you a lawyer?” I smiled and answered, “No, I’m not.” His demeanor turned sharply condescending when he declared, “Well, I am.”
While I knew from his body language and tone that this was intended as a declaration of superiority and even a challenge as to how I thought I was qualified to teach such things, I just smiled even bigger and replied, “That’s great! It’s interesting you should say that because I have had several attorneys take my class, and do you know they tell me that all through law school they never even read, let alone studied the Constitution?”
My words hit the bullseye. His face looked as though I had just punched him in the stomach. He sank down in his seat. The wind was out of his sails. I could see his mind racing back to law school classes, thinking, remembering, and then the startling confession that obviously stunned him more so than me: “No….we never did…”
His mind had opened, so I took the opportunity to stir it up some more: “Isn’t that incredible?” I asked. “When I go to a doctor, I naturally assume that they have studied anatomy. If not, I’m in trouble! When I hire a CPA to do my taxes, I naturally assume they have taken accounting courses. If not, I’m in trouble. So, how is it that an attorney can graduate from law school and never study the law of America, the Constitution of the United States? Maybe this is part of the reason our nation is in so much trouble today?”
His eyes got even bigger, but he remained speechless, and then turned away to read a book. While I didn’t exactly make a new best friend, I do believe I gave him a lot to think about.
What about the rest of us? What’s the take-home point here? While this issue certainly needs to be addressed in schools, I’d like to direct your thoughts to some applications to adults, specifically to you and your legislators.
When Congress is considering any bill, their criteria should not be the latest Gallup poll, your opinion, or their opinion about whether or not this potential legislation is a good or bad idea. Their sole concern should be keeping their oath of office when they pledged to Almighty God that they would protect and defend the Constitution of the United States. All legislation (to be lawful) must fall within the 18 parameters listed in Article I, Section 8. The criteria is conforming to the Constitution, not opinion – yours or theirs.
But the bigger question is, are you Constitutionally literate enough to hold your elected representatives accountable to this standard? If not, today is the day to do something about it. Take the Institute on the Constitution course that focuses on history and original intent. Help students start American Clubs. Restoration of America begins with Constitutional literacy of all generations. Imagine…knowledge of and adherence to the Constitution! Now that would be something to celebrate!
Something to think about.
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