Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Happy Birthday to Us (or U.S.)

Happy Birthday to Us (or U.S.)

Join me tomorrow (September 17) in celebrating our most important national holiday: Constitution Day. The anniversary of the signing of the Constitution is the least celebrated, and probably the least known, of our holidays, but that is where it all began.

Constitution Day has a better claim to being our birthday as a nation than does Independence Day. On the Fourth of July, we proclaimed that we were no longer British. Only after a bitter war and frustration under the Articles of Confederation, did we draft the Constitution that identified us as Americans. On that day, we became one people – one nation – where before we had been the mutually suspicious and quarrelsome citizens of thirteen separate sovereigns eyeing each other warily across borders.

And the Constitution has made us the model to the world. We were the first: now almost every government has a written constitution, must drawing inspiration, if not actual wording, from ours. We have truly shown the way.

But, as Ben Franklin said on that day, we created a Republic, but only we can keep it. Jefferson said that eternal vigilance is the price of liberty.

For several years I have followed the practice of rereading the Constitution as a whole each year at this time. Even after some forty years of practicing and teaching law, I find something new each year. I invite you to join me in this tradition; that’s why I have posted the entire document on this blog. If you have read the document as a whole at any time since high school civics class (if then), raise your hand. Look around – is any hand up? I thought so. Now is a good time to correct that oversight.

Those of us working for drug law reform know that the law must spring from, and be based on sound constitutional principles. Unless we know and love that document, we have no roadmap out of the wilderness.

Happy Constitution Day! Maybe next year we can have birthday cake and fireworks.

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