Our nation loves to celebrate holidays. Today, I want to talk about one day that does not get enough attention: September 17, Constitution Day.
On September 17, 1787, our Founding Fathers signed the document that has shaped our nation ever since: the U.S. Constitution. Over the last couple years, I have spoken many times about upholding the Constitution, and about how South Dakota is setting an example for the nation that constitutional principles still work. Some might think that I even talk about it too much – but there’s a reason why I do. That reason is best articulated by a story from another September 17.
To this day, September 17, 1862, remains the bloodiest 24 hours in American history. On that day, the Battle of Antietam was fought during the Civil War, and an estimated 23,000 young American men were killed or wounded.
What were those men fighting for? Our Constitution. It mattered to them. It mattered to those who were fighting to preserve our Union. The Confederacy had attempted to break the Constitution by seceding, and the men defending our Union were determined to uphold it.
There is a scene from this battle recorded by one anonymous soldier. As one of the regiments was, for the second time, entering the conflict, one soldier staggered. But he was not wounded – he had just seen his father lying dead upon the battlefield.
Another man, who knew them both, pointed to his father’s corpse and then pointed upwards. He said, “It is alright with him,” and the son continued with him into the battle. He passed his father’s dead body and did his duty to defend our Constitution.
We must exhibit the same bravery and sense of duty in defending our Constitution and the principles that our nation was founded on. We must do it even when it isn’t popular. We must do it because it is the right thing to do.
South Dakota has done this time and time again. When other states were destroying the Freedom of Religion, South Dakota never ordered a single church to close. When others were attacking the Freedom of Assembly, South Dakota allowed people to make their own decisions about who to gather with. When other states – and the federal government – tried to tear down the 2nd Amendment, South Dakota set the standard for defense of the right to keep and bear arms. I have always remained focused on what authorities I have and do not have – and I will continue to do so for as long as I am Governor.
The principles that our Founding Fathers followed in creating our Constitution – Freedom, Equality, Opportunity – these are still the most powerful forces known to man to make all of us safer, stronger, and healthier. South Dakota will continue to stand for these principles, and I will continue to stand for our Constitution.