With political tensions high, people tend to hold their rights near and dear to them. From the West to the East coast, the United States Constitution is a fundamental document that holds historical, moral and ethical value. September 17 is Constitution Day, which is a nationally acclaimed day to commemorate and value the freedoms we have in this nation. To better understand the historical significance, Gary Gershman, a professor in the Department of History and Political Science, explained what the Constitution has come to symbolize.
You might be wondering what exactly Constitution Day is. It might be the first time you’ve heard of this nationalized day. According to Gershman, the holiday is“…a nationalized day to celebrate the Constitution and what it stands for; the evolution, how we, as a nation, got to the Constitution and its history.”
The Constitution gave the President of the United States, Congress and the Supreme Court their powers. It only makes sense that the public should be informed on exactly what these powers are. One thought that comes to mind in this situation is President Trump’s recent bills and statements. As Gershman explained, impeachment cannot be a word thrown out toward the president solely on the basis that the president is doing a bad job. “The theory and the practical application about what is stated are two different things,” Gershman said.
As if understanding the rights established by the Constitution wasn’t difficult enough for the public, the Constitution is a document of ambiguous details on how the government of this country should be set up. Everyone has heard about of the separation of powers and checks and balances, but according to Gershman, the Constitution still “leaves things very ambiguous for a reason. We truly don’t know what the founders meant.” Even with Madison’s notes and the Bill of Rights, the Constitution itself lacks the ability to clearly define individual rights far beyond that of the structure of the government.
Despite its ambiguity, the Constitution is the defining feature of this country. “The Constitution is loaded with a lot of American mythology. It’s a beautiful document, that has been amended multiple times, and it’s survived because it’s adaptable,” Gershman said. People worldwide still believe that the rights held by the public are something that many can only just dream of and thus, cherish the document they believe guarantees those rights.
“Constitution day should be a day where people sit down and read the Constitution — the whole Constitution; it’s not only a legal document, it’s a historical document and it’s a political document,” Gershman said. He also suggested that this reading should take place with a clear mind and that readers should remove already formed opinions and read it in a non-political manner. You can’t have an opinion on a document that you’ve never read before.