Today is Constitution Day, the day we celebrate how 231 years ago our Founders adopted the U.S. Constitution in Philadelphia on September 17, 1787. That we’ve lasted so long is a phenomenal success within human history–since 1789 the average lifespan of national constitutions is just 19 years, according to scholars at the University of Chicago.
Our Constitutional delegates were far from perfect, and the document they signed was incomplete, flawed and exclusionary. But at its core, the document was an amazing expression of human dignity, free expression and property rights. And rather than creating a static, rigid document laying out the laws of our land, the Founders created an orderly process of amending the Constitution that eventually expanded freedom and equality for everyone all women and people of color.
Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr., understood the power of what these visionaries did, and he expanded that vision in his “I Have A Dream,” speech.
“When the architects of our republic wrote the magnificent words of the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence they were signing a promissory note to which every American was to fall heir,” King said. “This note was a promise that all men, yes, black men as well as white men, would be guaranteed the unalienable rights of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. It is obvious today that America has defaulted on this promissory note insofar as her citizens of color are concerned. Instead of honoring this sacred obligation, America has given the Negro people a bad check, a check which has come back marked insufficient funds. But we refuse to believe that the bank of justice is bankrupt. We refuse to believe that there are insufficient funds in the great vaults of opportunity of this nation. So we have come to cash this check, a check that will give us upon demand the riches of freedom and the security of justice. We have also come to this hallowed spot to remind America of the fierce urgency of now.”
King held America accountable for its bold founding premise: that all men and women are created equal.
How will you embrace “the fierce urgency of now” and preserve freedom today?
Carrie Sheffield is the founder of Bold. She is passionate about storytelling to empower and connect others. A founding POLITICO reporter, Carrie contributed on political economy at Forbes and wrote editorials for The Washington Times. After earning a master’s in public policy from Harvard University, she managed credit risk at Goldman Sachs and researched for American Enterprise Institute scholar Edward Conard. She earned a B.A. in communications at Brigham Young University and completed a Fulbright fellowship in Berlin.