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Q&A: Constitution Day

September 22, 2017
Senator Chuck Grassley , Dysart Reporter

Q: Why do you encourage Iowans to celebrate Constitution Day?

A: For 241 years and for good reason, Americans from sea to shining sea celebrate the birth of our nation every Fourth of July. On this day in 1776, the American experiment was born for which generations to follow would enjoy unalienable rights, including life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. And yet, observances for the historic founding charter signed on September 17, 1787, are eclipsed by the fireworks, parades and celebrations that take place for Independence Day. The U.S. Constitution wasapproved 11 years after our nation's founders declared independence from British rule, securing signatures of 39 delegates to the Constitutional Convention. It took effect the following June when New Hampshire became the ninth state to ratify. The U.S. Constitution enshrines our founding principles to "secure the blessings of liberty" and provide a framework for freedom for generations yet to come. The first three articles outline the duties of the three branches of the federal government legislative, executive and judiciary to establish a limited government of the people, by the people and for the people. Our system of checks and balances creates separate, co-equal branches to prevent the abuse of powers and to ensure the federal government does not infringe upon the individual liberties and personal freedoms of the people it serves. The cherished freedoms enshrined in the Constitution reflect the inviolable rights of U.S. citizenship, blessings that generations of America's sons and daughters have served and sacrificed to protect. Importantly, the Constitution reserves all powers not specified to the federal government to the states and the people. On the 230th birthday of the Constitution, I encourage Iowans to give thanks for the men and women in uniform who protect and defend freedom at home and abroad. Celebrating Constitution Day is a good opportunity to recommit ourselves to the sacred rights and responsibilities of citizenship, from freedoms of speech, religion and assembly to the rightof due process, and respect for the rule of law, voluntary tax compliance, jury duty and military service. An informed and engaged citizenry strengthens self-government and builds stronger communities to help foster peace and prosperity in our homes, schools and neighborhoods.

Q: What constitutional issues resonate in the daily lives of Americans today?

A: As the ultimate law of the land, the U.S. Constitution impacts the lives and livelihoods of every American. It is the world's oldest and shortest national constitution, and arguably the most profound and powerfulguarantee of human freedom ever adopted, shaping a way of life for hundreds of millions of people and shining a beacon of light around the world for more than 200 years. The American Revolution sparked the birth of a nation and effectively delivered a revolutionary form of government: the U.S. Constitution established the right of self-government premised upon fidelity to the rule of law. In America, individuals have the opportunity to help rule or be ruled, the opportunity to help govern or be governed. Throughout my years of public service representing my home state, I encourage Iowans to make the decision that it's better to jump in and help govern, than to be governed. That's why I work tirelessly to keep in touch with Iowans and serve as a watchdog for good government. My oversight work is a crucial function of our system of checks and balances to hold government accountable and build trust in our institutions of government. Reining in government overreach and overspending; keeping check on government surveillance and cybersecurity to protect privacy rights; preserving due process rights relative to asset forfeiture and criminal justice reforms; and, upholding private and intellectual property rights are just a few consequential issues bearing constitutional concerns in this Congress. As for national and homeland security, the Constitution authorizes the government to "provide for the common defense." So when terrorism, foreign or domestic, seeks to fray the fabric of our nation and our way of life, it is the primary responsibility of the federal government to protect American citizens and U.S. sovereignty. This September, America observed the 16th anniversary of 9/11. As a nation, we stand united by the bonds of grief and gratitude for the courage, sacrifice and patriotism of first responders and men and women in uniform who put themselves in harm's way to protect us. Congress this month also approved a bipartisan resolution condemning hate groups perpetrating violence, including "white nationalists, white supremacists, the Ku Klux Klan, and neo-Nazis." The U.S. Constitution was established to "form a more perfect union." Let us remember that E Pluribus Unum, "Out of Many, One," a 13-letter Latin phrase, unified the 13 original colonies and today appears on the official seals of the President, Congress and Supreme Court. Despite imperfections along the way, our American experiment remains united by the limited powers vested in government and the principles of freedom, liberty and equal rights under the law. Let us take care on this Constitution Day to take stock of these blessings and take steps to educate the next generation about the heritage and legacy they are blessed to carry forward.

Elected to his seventh six-year term in November, Senator Chuck Grassley represents Iowa in the U.S. Senate. He also celebrates his birthday on Constitution Day, September 17.



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