September 17 is Constitution Day - the anniversary of the signing of the Constitution of the United States. The U.S. Constitution was signed on September 17, 1787, by thirty-nine men, but this important document had no permanent home until 1952 when the National Archives Building was dedicated in Washington, D.C. This building contains nearly 800,000 cubic feet of records, including maps, sound recordings, and still and motion pictures. These records date from 1774 to the present and are stored in areas where the temperature and humidity are carefully controlled.
The National Archives Building was specifically designed and built as a place where the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution of the United States could be displayed together. Thousands of people visit the stately Exhibition Hall each year to see these masterpieces. These documents, charters of America's freedom, are sealed in bronze and glass cases filled with helium. In emergencies and at a moment's notice, they can be lowered into a safe that is fire-resistant and shockproof.
The ceremony to dedicate the National Archives Building was presided over by the chief justice of the United States, and the invocation was given by the chaplain of the Senate. The main speaker was the President of the United States, Harry S. Truman. It was a solemn time. The world was enduring a dark time in history, and the Cold War was putting a chill on everyone. Many people were in bondage behind the Iron Curtain in Europe, and the United States was fighting a war in Korea. Communism seemed to be advancing steadily. I'm sure that people were wondering if liberty was safe in America? President Truman said that liberty "can be lost, and it will be, if the time ever comes when these documents are regarded not as the supreme expression of our profound belief, but merely as curiosities in glass cases."
Do you have the words and principles of these two great documents engraven upon your heart and mind?? Have you actually read them? Do you feel the power of the words? Do you agree with them or do you consider them to be outdated?
"We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. - That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed…." Between those words at the beginning of the second paragraph of the Declaration of Independence and the final words "… we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes, and our Sacred Honor" is a list of twenty-seven grievances against the King of Great Britain. I was amazed the first time I read that list. Do you have any idea what those injuries were? If not, I suggest that you read the Declaration of Independence in its entirety.
The Preamble of the Constitution says, "WE THE PEOPLE of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America." The men who wrote those words knew that their formula for freedom could be lost in a single generation and yet the Constitution of the United States has been the supreme law of our land for 223 years.
No generation before ours lost the independence and liberty provided by these two great documents and those people who sacrificed so much that we might live in freedom. Are you willing to be part of the generation that loses freedom? I answer a firm "NO!" If the generations before ours were willing to make great sacrifices to gain and preserve liberty and independence, I too am willing to make sacrifices to maintain freedom. I encourage you to memorize the Preamble as part of your observance of this Constitution Day. I invite all of you to join with me in keeping the Declaration of Independence and the United States Constitution as the "supreme expression of our profound belief."