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Human Rights and Freedoms
 
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Government Reform

The Bicentennial and the Constitution


      In commemoration of the bicentennial of the United States of America, nine members of the U.S. Congress presented their views on the nation’s 200th birthday in original articles published in the Freedom edition that ushered in 1976.

      Their articles presented a diverse range of opinions and reflections on the progress and the future of the country, its government, and its people.

      Authors included Senators Abraham Ribicoff, William Proxmire, Birch Bayh, Joseph Montoya and Paul Fannin, and Congressmen Edward Beard, Joe Waggonner Jr., Barry Goldwater Jr., and Steve Symms. Each article was memorable, each worth reprinting. Freedom has reprinted one of them here:



Sen. Birch Bayh
By Sen. Birch Bayh

A
s the nation begins its third century, it is important that we take a few moments to consider the document that has served and continues to serve us so well. The Constitution, that relatively short and simple statement, forms the basis of our government and has shaped much of our way of life.

      The men who drafted and approved our Constitution were an extraordinary group. And with a vision of what was then a radical form of government, they produced an extraordinary document.

      Through a variety of circumstances, which even these wise and farsighted men could not envision, the Constitution has guided our country on a remarkably smooth journey. This was a journey that began with a commitment “to form a more perfect union, establish justice, insure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general welfare, and secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity....”

     The Constitution has a special meaning to me, for as the Chairman of the Senate Constitutional Amendments Subcommittee, I have had a chance to examine the words of the framers and to be associated with the passage of two amendments and one that is close to being ratified.

     These amendments having to do with presidential succession, the right of 18-year-olds to vote in federal elections and, hopefully, one to provide equal rights for all Americans are also tributes to the framers of the Constitution. Here again, these men had the foresight to make the Constitution a living document which could be adapted to changing circumstances.

     But the Constitution itself will not insure our success in the years to come. As the Watergate scandal shows, we must be on the alert for those who would subvert the Constitution not for the common good but for their own selfish ends.

     The Constitution is a strong but fragile document. It depends on an American public with an enduring commitment to its processes and goals.

     As we celebrate our 200th birthday, we must renew this commitment to the Constitution in order to keep our nation strong and free.

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