“Saving the American Constitution”
By Colleen Sheehan
JMC faculty partner Colleen Sheehan has written an article for the Arizona Capitol Times on Constitution Day and how we can best approach the challenge of self-government:
“Our nation today is badly fragmented, and civil discourse is, well, not very civil. Some have even speculated about disunion, of becoming two Americas.
Someone recently asked me, ‘How can the Constitution save us?’ My response was that it can’t. Rather, it is up to us to save the Constitution. The document we think of as the U.S. Constitution is of course the Constitution, but there is also something that primarily constitutes America, and that is the people themselves. Who the people are and what we believe in – our character and public opinion – in a word, our ethos, or way of life – are as much the American constitution as the document signed by the framers at Independence Hall, Philadelphia, on September 17, 1787.
The U.S. Constitution contains our fundamental law; we the people are its source of authority and the spirit that sustains the rule of law and its purpose. On Constitution Day 2020, as we commemorate the parchment document produced some 233 years ago, we should also take stock of who we are. What do Americans stand for? To what cause are we dedicated? Can we work to engage in civil discourse with one another and to seek common ground as fellow citizens? For if we cannot, we will indeed be facing the sad prospect of two Americas.
On Constitution Day we owe gratitude to those who drafted the Constitution and founded the nation. One way to pay this debt is by remembering the Founders and the mission that inspired their labors. Another is to pay that mission forward…”
Colleen Sheehan is the Director of Graduate Studies in the School for Civic and Economic Thought and Leadership at Arizona State University and previously Director of the Matthew J. Ryan Center and Professor of Politics at Villanova University. She is author of James Madison and the Spirit of Republican Self-Government (Cambridge University Press, 2009), co-editor of Friends of the Constitution: Writings of the Other Federalists 1787-1788, and author of numerous articles on the American Founding and eighteenth century political and moral thought which have appeared in journals such as William and Mary Quarterly, American Political Science Review, Review of Politics, and Persuasions: The Jane Austen Journal.
Professor Sheehan is a JMC faculty partner.
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