This weekend America will celebrate Constitution Day, created to honor the signing of the U.S. Constitution on September 17, 1787, by the Constitutional Convention. Earlier this week, former Attorney General Ed Meese reflected on the importance ordinary citizens can play in preserving our Constitution:
The Constitution of the United States of America has endured over two centuries. It remains the object of reverence for nearly all Americans and an object of admiration by peoples around the world. Unfortunately, the assault by 20th century liberal theorists and activist judges has seriously undermined respect for America’s core principles, denigrating some constitutional rights they disagree with and making up others. Fortunately, there has been a renewed interest in the Constitution in recent years, as Americans seek to understand the founding principles and enduring truths that form the bedrock of our chosen form of self-government. Clearly, the future of liberty depends on America reclaiming its constitutional first principles.
As Meese explains, this was something President Ronald Reagan keenly understood. In a 1981 proclamation, Reagan explained the paramount importance of an engaged public:
Daniel Webster once wrote, “We may be tossed upon an ocean where we can see no land — nor, perhaps, the sun or stars. But there is a chart and a compass for us to study, to consult, and to obey. The chart is the Constitution.” September 17, 1981, marks the 194th anniversary of our Constitution. Its Framers scarcely could have conceived of the timelessness of the document they so carefully drafted. They prepared a Constitution to meet the needs of a fledgling nation. Yet today, amid the complexities of the twentieth century, that same Constitution, with only several amendments, serves a nation whose territory spans a continent and whose population exceeds two hundred and twenty-five million. With the passing of each year, it becomes increasingly evident that, in the words of Chief Justice John Marshall, our Constitution will “endure for ages to come.”
The Constitution establishes the Congress, the Executive, and the Judiciary, and through a deliberate allocation of authority, it defines the limits of each upon the others. It particularizes the liberties which, as free men and women, we insist upon, and it constrains both Federal and State powers to ensure that those precious liberties are faithfully protected. It is our blueprint for freedom, our commitment to ourselves and to each other.
It is by choice, not by imposition, that the Constitution is the supreme law of our Land. As we approach the bicentennial of this charter, each of us has a personal obligation to acquaint ourselves with it and with its central role in guiding our Nation. While a constitution may set forth rights and liberties, only the citizens can maintain and guarantee those freedoms. Active and informed citizenship is not just a right; it is a duty.