JOSHUA MARIN-MORA: On September 17, 1787, in Independence Hall in Philadelphia delegates from each of the thirteen colonies gathered together to repeal the Articles of Confederation and officially sign off on a new constitution “in order to form a more perfect union.” Today, 229 years later, the U.S. Constitution still stands, withstanding the test of time. On Monday a few Georgetown students and I, along with Scott Fleming, the former Associate Vice President of Federal Relations came together in the Healey Family Student Center to share a few words about the parts of the Constitution that mean the most to us.
When Scott was a student here at Georgetown a national dialogue was taking place across the nation’s universities surrounding the Vietnam War. Scott made his opinions clear as a student about his opposition to the war, and came to appreciate the Constitution protecting his right to peaceably assemble and petition the government. The Vietnam War also led him to really think about what Article I Section 8 means to him about how the government handles matters of war: “The Congress shall have the Power to declare War...” Other parts of the Constitution that were mentioned yesterday afternoon included the importance of the First Amendment’s protections of free speech and freedom of the press; the importance of the Thirteenth Amendment for many African-Americans today because it liberated their ancestors from the brutality that was slavery and abolished it; and also the protections guaranteed by the Fourteenth Amendment’s equal protection of the laws in all of the states. I focused on my guaranteed protection to be able to vote, remembering the story of Benjamin Franklin where he says that we were given a republican form of government, if we can keep it.
The U.S. Constitution protects the rights that were promised in the Declaration of Independence. It not only establishes methods for the government to check its own power, but also gives the people of the United States methods for us to also check the power of the government. It allows us to participate in our democracy, a luxury which people in some of parts of the world aren’t afforded. There have certainly been times, however, where people’s rights have been abridged throughout different times in our history. To address this, we the people must remain vigilant and must know what rights and protections we are afforded by the U.S. Constitution. As President Lincoln once said, “We the People are the rightful masters of both Congress and the Courts, not to overthrow the Constitution, but to overthrow the men who would pervert the Constitution.”
Which part of the Constitution means the most to you?