JOHN EGGERS COLUMN: How to enjoy the best Fourth of July ever
I was never asked to recite the Preamble to the Constitution when I was in school. Too bad. I always believed that recitation was good for the brain. Maybe I would have been a lot smarter and wiser had my teachers made me recite it.
Well, now's your chance. It's the Fourth of July and time to remind us about how our country began. After 250 years, we are still going strong—depending on whom you talk to. Of course, a debate about the wellbeing of our country is always a good conversation. People can believe and say what they believe without repercussions and that's why our country celebrates the Fourth. It all started with the Preamble. Do you remember it?
We the People of the United States,
In 1787 the Founding Fathers met in Philadelphia to make some changes in the constitution and it was at this convention that Gouverneur Morris from New York helped put the finishing touches on a revised Constitution including the writing of the Preamble. (His half brother signed the Declaration of Independence.)
in Order to form a more perfect Union,
I always felt this was the best part of the constitution because it suggests that our work is not yet perfect and much remains to be done. You wonder how one can improve on what appears to be an almost perfect document but that's the way Americans are. We don't tolerate imperfection and we fight hard when we see and hear it.
establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility,
A couple of areas we need to work on are "Justice" and "domestic Tranquility." The United States has one of the highest incarceration rates of any country. Almost 700 people are incarcerated for every 100,000 people. This does not include juveniles. Something isn't quite right.
What about "tranquility"? There have been 1,516,863 gun-related deaths in the United States since 1968, compared to 1,396,733 cumulative war deaths (i.e. all wars combined in which the U.S. was involved) since the American Revolution. It's incredulous that some people believe that more guns will make our country safer and ensure "domestic tranquility." When will we wake up?
provide for the common defense,
At least 74 school shootings have occurred since December 2012, when an assault on Sandy Hook Elementary School left 28 dead. When we think about defense, it's sad that we have to think about "defense" for our schools. At $611 billion, the U.S. spends more on national defense than the next eight countries combined, which includes China and Russia. What if we just took $11 billion and gave it to schools for their defense?
promote the general Welfare,
Gouverneur Morris was one of the few delegates at the Philadelphia Convention who spoke openly against domestic slavery. We have come a long way since then. Some would argue, we still have miles to go. We do well at helping people. Our health care isn't too bad; we have retirement plans for seniors; we help people in poverty and we give to other nations who also need our help. The people in the U.S. have a good heart—but we can do better and we know it. Why is it that some people can't make a living on working 40 or 50 hours a week? We still have homeless people. We still have refugees looking for a place to sleep in peace and without fear. We still need to ensure that everyone has equal opportunity.
and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity,
Everything we do is pretty much for our children and that's the way it should be just like our fathers did everything for you and me. Securing liberty and ensuring posterity comes with a heavy price. Today we battle ISIS and our nemesis, Russia, which relishes trying to damage our election process and upset our democracy. We wonder if things will ever get better and the honest answer is, probably not a whole lot.
We do have a strong foundation in the form of a constitution that has helped secure our liberty and provided for our posterity for 250 years and there is no reason to believe that it can't be done for the next 250 years.
do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.
Lots of politicians carry a copy of the Constitution in their purse or pocket. That's good. From time to time we all have to be reminded of what it says and the Fourth of July is a good time to do it. If you have a few minutes, see if you can't recite the preamble by memory and then the next time you see your children or grandchildren, recite it for them. You will be a lot smarter and wiser and you will have enjoyed the best Fourth of July ever when you do. Happy Fourth!
Riddle: What did Paul Revere say at the end of his ride?
("I gotta get a softer saddle!") It's been a long hard ride since 1776 but here we are today looking forward to the next 250 years. Our founding fathers, including Gouverneur Morris, would be proud of their foresight and amazed at our progress but, at the same time, they would remind us of some unfinished business.
John R. Eggers of Bemidji is a former university professor and area principal. He also is a writer and public speaker.