Each year on September 17, we rightly celebrate the single most important document ever written for securing liberty from the ambition of tyrants. It was on this day in 1787 that 39 of our Founding Fathers signed one of the most consequential documents in our history: The Constitution of the United States.
Comparable in stature to the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution puts forth a system of government that actualizes the truths written in the Declaration – most importantly, the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Indeed, the act of signing the document 232 years ago symbolized a turning point for our great nation, for the Constitution puts into practice the revolutionary idea that government works for the people, rather than vice versa.
From the checks and balances created by the separation of powers to the principle of dual sovereignty encompassed in the federal system, the diffusion of power outlined in the Constitution is still a guardian of freedom for the common man. And the republic created by the Founders combines a system that allows municipalities, counties and states to govern themselves with a federal government that still possesses the right amount of power to defend our shores, regulate interstate commerce and provide infrastructure.
One of the many great features of the Constitution is its brevity and simplicity, as it was designed for the common man rather than lawyers. Though the Constitution is a powerful document, it is just that – a document. It has authority because we enforce it. While the Constitution was by no means perfect from the outset, our wise Founders did have the foresight to allow for amendments in Article V. Though a perfect constitution will never exist, the 27 amendments – including the Bill of Rights – that have followed the original document have certainly improved our founding charter.
More than two centuries later, it’s far too easy to take the Constitution for granted. But we must not forget how fortunate we are to have the stability of a written constitution that has endured the test of time. Even some of our greatest international allies have been forced to reconstruct their constitutions periodically. Not so in the United States.
I encourage you to take a few minutes to read this timeless document and reflect on the greatness America has achieved as a result. I also encourage you to remember the duty we all have as Americans to teach future generations about the brilliance of the Constitution’s mechanics and the natural rights it implicitly and explicitly enumerates and defends.
U.S. Representative Tom Cole (R-OK-04) is a citizen of the Chickasaw Nation and is the Ranking Member of House Rules Committee. Cole is currently serving in his eighth term in the U.S. House of Representatives. He was identified as “one of the sharpest minds in the House,” by Time Magazine and “the hardest working Member of Congress,” by Newsmax. In 2017, Cole was inducted into the Oklahoma Hall of Fame.