Editorial: Constitution Week chance to look back, forward

We the People of the United States have something to celebrate this week. To be honest, it’s something we celebrate every day that we enjoy our basic freedoms as Americans, though we too often take them for granted.

The week of Sept. 17-23 is Constitution Week, celebrating the signing of the United States Constitution in Philadelphia, now 235 years ago, on Sept. 17, 1787.

But it’s only in the nation’s fairly recent history, in 1955, that the Daughters of the American Revolution petitioned Congress to observe Constitution Week, which did so with a law signed by President Dwight Eisenhower in 1956.

Our blessings of liberty the Constitution aims to secure begin with our first freedoms — religion, speech, the press and the right to assemble — spelled out in the First Amendment. Our founders were wise to put these freedoms first. They recognized that these freedoms of conscience, of enlightenment, would be the light by which our young nation would see its way forward.

It was, literally, a revolutionary act to also ensure in that same First Amendment “the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”

We Americans argue ceaselessly about what our Constitution says and what it doesn’t say. And that is precisely as the founders intended. Robust debate was encouraged and protected in our founding document, and it still is. This has instilled in us Americans a spirit that, inspired as our founders were, also informs us that the work started in Philadelphia 235 years ago isn’t finished yet. Perhaps it never will be.

Our Constitution’s preamble is a breathtaking promise our founders made to one another and to the future while our fledgling nation asserted its independence against all odds. This is what it boldly says: “We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.”

So began the framework that has steered our development as a nation and extended and protected our blessings of liberty. These liberties are imperfect and fragile, however. The defense of our rights ensured us by the Constitution demands an engaged, informed and active citizenry.

Take some time this week to gain a deeper appreciation of how the Constitution shapes our nation, our rights, our culture and our promise. Imagine how far we have come from our founding and how far we still have to go to keep the promise of forming a more perfect union.

The Constitution is alive, subject to change with the times. Our founders saw to that, too. However, it hasn’t been amended for 30 years — the longest period between amendments in more than 100 years.

Does that mean we have it right? What would you change? Thanks to our Constitution, We the People can decide.