July 4, 1776 Part II
By Ed Maier, Former Andersen Partner
Once again, we just held our annual celebration of the birth of our nation, which took place 242 years ago.
Last year, as I suffered from all of the “noise” from various communication channels, I wrote that I would not spend any time on the 4th to listen to those from the right, or the left, or the middle, tell me what’s right or wrong with my country, or what needs to be done to “make it great again”. While it might be tarnished once in a while, it is still great.
This year, with the “noise” continuing to blare over subjects like trade, nuclear disarmament, immigration and the next Supreme Court nominee, once again I decided to ease my frustrations in a similar manner. Last year, I read the Declaration of Independence and thought about it. And I recommended you do the same.
This year I read the “Constitution of the United States of America (1787)” which I found at: https://www.billofrightsinstitute.org/founding-documents/constitution/. To be complete, in addition to reading the Constitution itself, I read the first ten amendments, also known as The Bill of Rights (http://www.billofrightsinstitute.org/founding-documents/bill-of-rights/ and the subsequent seventeen individual Amendments, which you will find at https://www.billofrightsinstitute.org/founding-documents/additional-amendments/. Once again, I suggest you do the same. If you are an average reader, which I consider myself to be, this effort will take you about thirty-five minutes.
I read these casually, without the intent of understanding every word and phrase, but just to get a sense of the various issues that our original writers were concerned about as they designed our government. I could also see how some societal trends during our 242 years affected the Houses of Congress and their rule-making authority to deal with change. For example, I noticed in the original constitution it says, in the first paragraph of Section 3: “The Senate of the United States shall be composed of two Senators from each state, chosen by the legislature thereof, for six years; and each Senator shall have one vote.” I never knew that. Did you? I always believed that Senators were chosen by the popular vote of the people in their state. It was not until the 17th Amendment was ratified in 1913, that this voting procedure was changed for Senators to be elected by the people of their state. Why was it changed? According to my Google search, by 1912, many states and the people in them realized that the biggest issue in selecting senators was corruption. Many of the Senators were “elected” by their state legislatures as a result of making corrupt bargains with their legislators. Many people were angry over the lack of choice they had. By the time the 17th amendment was proposed in 1912, almost thirty states were in favor of directly electing senators. The 17th amendment was proposed in 1912 and was completely ratified very quickly by 1913.
Another social change you can see develop over the years was the change in society’s views on alcohol consumption. The 18th Amendment, which passed the Prohibition laws and was ratified in 1919, was repealed by the 21st Amendment in 1933. As the country has evolved and continued to develop, other key amendments affecting society have been proposed and ratified. These include the abolishment of slavery, guarantee of due process and equal protection, affirmation of the right to vote regardless of race, color or servitude and the right to vote for women.
By the time you read this newsletter, the time for celebration will have passed. The barbecue grilles have been cooled and put aside, the picnic paraphernalia has been stored away, and we returned to our regular daily lives. But don’t let the opportunity to talk about what you read in these documents pass. At an upcoming family or friend’s event, have a conversation with other family members, or a group of friends and talk about what you read. Share some of the documents with them and encourage them to do the same. Have a real discussion. Don’t lecture; don’t argue; just listen. There is nothing to be “won” or “lost” here, just an exchange of ideas.
And don’t forget another important fact related to these words, these thoughts, these ideas that are so carefully recorded in our history. Millions of American men and women have served in our armed forces over these past 242 years. Many have died or suffered significant loss as they have served to protect these sacred rights. The next time you see one or a group of them in a restaurant, shopping mall, airport or just walking down the street, take a moment and thank them for their service.
I hope my focus on this topic again reminds you of the benefits we have of living in a nation that was created in accordance with the beliefs in these documents. We are still a young country. Like all others we have to adapt to change as we continue to grow. But the foundation on which we stand is incredibly strong. It is worthy to aspire to continue to build America’s greatness.
But as I said earlier and will repeat, over and over. There is no need to make America great “again”. America is great. We must maintain and increase her strength. But her greatness lives on. If it does not, why do more people want to come here than want to leave here?
As always, I am interested in your thoughts. Write me at firstname.lastname@example.org and share your thoughts. And, I hope you and yours had a happy Fourth of July!
P.S.--For those of you who have enjoyed my writing over the past several years, you can enjoy it again in my book coming out later this year. More to come on that in the future.