Saturday, September 20, 2014

For Ourselves and Our Posterity

This past week was Constitution Day, a day when we in the teaching profession are called upon to teach something about the Constitution to our charges, to honor the anniversary of its signing. There's something quite inspiring about unpacking the meaning of the Preamble for third graders, and it's been on my mind ever since.
We the people, in order to form a more perfect union, establish justice, ensure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general welfare and secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity do ordain and establish this Constitution of the United States of America.
What does it mean? What are the values laid out as the foundation for this great experiment upon which the founders of our country were embarking with no certainty of how it would turn out? I can't help thinking about how much care must have gone into the choosing of every word.

1) A more perfect union: The best community we can be. Together. United.
2) Justice: Law and fairness.
3) Domestic tranquility: Peace at home.
4) The common defense: protection from dangers, a shared sense of safety.
5) The general welfare: health, happiness, and good things for everyone,
6) The blessings of liberty: all the best that freedom gives us, secured, made sure not just for us, here and now, but for our children and our children's children - for our future.

As we set out to understand it in third grade, we asked the questions that were, essentially, the questions of the founding fathers: What kind of community do we want to be? How can we get there?  So simple and so profound. I imagined this group of people laying out their vision with those same questions in their hearts, not knowing that over 220 years later, their words would carry such weight and meaning and history - not knowing, but perhaps hoping. Hoping. "For ourselves and our posterity."

Every generation since has endeavored, in their own way, through their own challenges and mis-steps, to live up to those ideals, stay true to that vision, and understand it and reinterpret it through the ever-changing lens of evolving customs and events, in the hope of safeguarding it for future generations. "For ourselves and our posterity."

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