Q: What reflections do you have on Constitution Day?
A: Since the day I was born, I have celebrated Constitution Day. I say that with a bit of tongue-in-cheek. That’s because the 39 delegates to the Constitutional Convention signed the U.S. Constitution on September 17 (146 years before I was born to the day). As a history buff, it’s a gift of serendipity to share my birthday with the historic anniversary signing of our nation’s founding charter. And as one of Iowa’s U.S. senators, I am honored to take an oath of office to “support and defend the Constitution of the United States.” Eleven years after declaring independence from British rule memorializing “unalienable Rights” for the American people in 1776, the nation’s founders established the framework for a revolutionary system of self-government. And today, 232 years later, the Constitution stands as the “supreme Law of the Land.” With an American population today exceeding 327 million people across 50 states, U.S. territories and the District of Columbia — “We the People” — continues to strive for a more perfect Union. At the turn of the 19th century, the Constitution launched the American experiment that has endured for more than two centuries. Its timeless principles have withstood the test of time thanks in large measure to generations of courageous patriots devoted to freedom and liberty. Eighteen years after 9/11, this chapter of American history is still being written. Its pages are filled with sorrow and sacrifice reflecting the solidarity of a nation stitching itself back together, even stronger than before. The Constitution lends weight to the resilience and strength of our heritage and the heroes who have fought to defend and protect our borders at home and from distant shores around the world. In the course of human history, America is an exceptional nation. Never before or since has a country been founded explicitly around the principle of protecting natural rights and individual liberty. The Constitution laid the cornerstone establishing the sovereign power of the people, using a system of checks and balances to define the proper role of government in a free society. On this Constitution Day, it’s my hope that Americans of all ages will reflect upon the responsibilities of citizenship and the blessings of freedom handed down from one generation to the next.
Q: Why is it important for Americans to observe Constitution Day?
A: One of the lessons we learned from the 9/11 terrorist attacks is that America must never grow complacent or take for granted our freedoms and way of life. When the federal government restructured its counter-terrorism regimes to stop future attacks on U.S. soil, the executive, legislative and judicial branches were kept in check to govern within their vested constitutional authority. Even when national security is the federal government’s number one priority, the Constitution ensures personal freedoms and individual rights are protected and upheld. In a post-9/11 world, Americans are accustomed to enhanced security procedures and inconveniences at the airport, concert venues and sporting events. The aftermath of 9/11 will reverberate throughout American society for years to come. Consider most students in grades K-12 weren’t even born before the day of the attacks 18 years ago. It’s important for the next generation to learn about the sacrifice of those who have answered the call of duty to defend freedom and protect our way of life in a free society. The endurance of our republic depends on an engaged citizenry. Throughout my years of public service representing Iowans, I have encouraged Iowans to dip their toes in the waters of representative government. Dive in and join the dialogue. It’s better to jump in and help govern, than to be governed. In America, individuals have the opportunity to help rule, or be ruled. In August, I wrapped up another year of my 99 county meetings. For 39 years in a row, I’ve upheld my commitment to meet with Iowans in every county, at least once, every year. Even though the internet makes it a lot easier for people to fire off an email, I want to give people the opportunity to share their concerns face-to-face. Meeting with Iowans in their local communities, and to see where they work, go to school, access health care and make ends meet, helps me better represent their views and concerns at the policymaking tables in Washington, D.C. During my Q&A sessions at my 99 county meetings, I let Iowans set the agenda. It’s the essence of representative government and that’s how the rubber meets the road in a constitutional republic.