09.13.11

Leahy Marks Constitution Day

Statement Of Senator Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.),

Chairman, Senate Judiciary Committee,

On The Anniversary Of The Constitutional Convention

This Saturday, the Nation marks the 224th anniversary of the day when the founders signed the fundamental charter for our democracy – the Constitution of the United States.  During the Constitutional Convention, the delegates debated hundreds of issues and proposals before crafting the final charter.  Thankfully, the founders had the foresight to know that their debate would not be the final word on the subject.  The work of defining our Nation – ensuring protection of rights for all Americans – would continue, as we strive to create “a more perfect union.”

It was through the leadership of the late Senator Robert C. Byrd that the Congress began to officially celebrate the signing of the Constitution, calling the September 17 anniversary “Constitution Day.”   Senator Byrd understood the importance of ensuring that future generations value our Nation’s founding charter.  This week, in schools across the country, students will learn about the Constitutional Convention and the meaning of Constitution Day.

For well over two centuries, the Constitution has allowed America to flourish and, importantly, adapt to new challenges.  Since the inclusion of the Bill of Rights in 1791, the Constitution has been amended just 17 times.  There has much discussion of late about amending our Nation’s fundamental charter.  As chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, that is not something that I take lightly.  Proposing amendments to the Constitution should not be a reflexive response to political threats.  Each member of Congress swears to support and defend the Constitution; it should be treated with the reverence it deserves, not as leverage in heated political debate.

While I certainly believe that the Constitution has been improved over time in our effort to create a more perfect union, those amendments were thoroughly considered and debated over time.  Before we alter our national charter, we must openly consider whether such amendment would hamstring future generations.

Pressure groups may demand that elected representatives sign pledges about what they will and will not do if elected to office.  The pledge I follow – the one I was honored to make again at the beginning of this Congress – is to uphold the Constitution.  I take that pledge seriously.  “We the People” owe a great debt to the framers of our Constitution.  And as we commemorate the signing of the Constitution of the United States of American 224 years ago, I hope all Americans will take this opportunity to read the words of our founding charter, and learn about how it protects us all. 

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