Today is Constitution Day, and students across the country—from pre-kindergarten to pre-med programs—are taking time out of their schedules to reflect on our most significant founding document.
They will learn, I expect, that the creation of a government “of, by, and for” the people was unprecedented. Students will learn that the Constitution was never perfect, but always evolved to ensure that more Americans could enjoy the blessings of liberty. They will learn that, like the wider narrative of our country, the story of the Constitution is one of progress: while the first Americans elections only allowed a tiny minority to vote, amendments to the Constitution extended the fundamental right to vote to all American citizens, regardless of race, class, or gender.
But as these conversations are happening on multicolored carpets and in campus dining halls, I hope that students also learn that the Constitution is what binds us all together. I hope they learn that a few simple words in our Constitution’s preamble—“We the People”—have endowed us with a country where we are all in it together.
As President Obama said when he accepted the Democratic Party’s nomination, this is why we “believe in something called citizenship—citizenship, a word at the very heart of our founding, a word at the very essence of our democracy, the idea that this country only works when we accept certain obligations to one another and to future generations.”
On today’s Constitution Day, I hope the next generations will continue to learn that what makes America such a special place is not simply what we accomplish as individuals, but what we can achieve together. Just 50 days from the presidential election, I hope today reminds us that our first collective obligation is ensuring that our Constitutional rights are protected—not just on paper—but in the lives of every American. I hope today reminds us of our responsibility as citizens to protect the voting rights of all Americans and keep moving our country forward.