“We the People of the United States, in order 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, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.”
We should all know these words as they are the preamble to our Constitution. It seems that these words have begun to be forgotten by far too many in our Congress, by our President, by our statehouses, by our local governments, and by ourselves. These may be the most important words in our Constitution as these are the words that give our nation its purpose. These words, this preamble, are the mission statement of our nation and of our government.
Our Constitution does not begin with the words “We the Republicans”, or “We the Democrats”, or “We the privileged”. No! It begins with “We the People”. Notice that the word, people, is capitalized. That is how it is written in our Constitution. I suppose that was done for emphasis as there are several other keywords in the preamble which are also capitalized.
So the first purpose of our government and out nation is to serve the people — all of the people. This is very clear. Our government was not formed to serve some of the people; it certainly was not formed to serve the ultra-wealthy, or the ultra-privileged. Our revolution made that crystal clear. Many thousands of Americans died throwing off the chains of tyranny to be free from an ultra-wealthy, ultra-privileged despot. We must remember that those first three words of the preamble are critical to our survival and prosperity as a nation. We must remember that we cannot survive unless we act together as one. Our country is far too divided today for its continued prosperity and viability.
The second phrase, “in order to form a more perfect Union”, is an incredibly powerful and compelling statement that has driven our country to attempt to improve itself for nearly 2 ½ centuries. Again, as the preamble is simply the mission statement of our country and our government, the underlying purpose of every law we pass, of every rule and every regulation, should always be to improve our country for our people, i.e. to form a more perfect union. Our founders knew that we were not perfect. Our founders knew that conditions would change, but they gave us a clear objective right in the second phrase of the preamble. We must not ever forget this. We must all be guided by this principle.
And yet today we have a Congress and a president who are taking pride in attempting to pass new laws and push out new regulations which can in no way be interpreted as an attempt to improve upon our country — our union. In what way could reducing or eliminating the regulations that help us maintain clean air and clean water improve our country? In what way can taking away health care benefits for about 10% of our population improve our country? In what way can eliminating our national parks and monuments improve our country?
The next phrase, “establish Justice”, is another powerful statement of our mission. Again every act of our government at every level from the federal government all the way down to our cities and townships, should have an underlying goal of promoting and improving justice for us all. Obviously when our Constitution was written, many of our founding fathers were slaveholders. So their views of justice 2 ½ centuries ago were certainly somewhat different from what ours should be today. But again, the purpose of the preamble is the mission statement of our country and our government. Everything that we have done in our history should be pushing us farther along the path of improving justice and equality for all as well as improving the state of the union. So many people in the last few years are so upset and fighting so hard against the Supreme Court’s recent rulings that marriage is for everyone regardless of gender. While gay marriage was likely a very foreign concept to our forefathers, today it should be accepted by us all. Our Constitution mandates it in the preamble. “… to form a more perfect Union, to establish Justice” are our guiding principles. Our founding fathers knew situations would change, cultural norms would change, technologies would change, etc. They could not have envisioned the world as we know it today, but they certainly were visionary enough to realize that the world they knew would not be the same down the road.
The next two phrases, “insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defense”, should be fairly self-evident and should not require any explanations or elaborations.
The next phrase, “promote the general Welfare”, should be fairly self-evident as well. However, many in our country and in our government seem to not understand this concept. They certainly are not embracing it. Yet every government official at every level has sworn an oath to “preserve, and protect the Constitution of the United States and all of the laws there under”. Promoting the general welfare simply means improving the quality of life for all of us. Over 50 years ago a new president, John F. Kennedy, stood before us and spoke the phrase, “Ask not what your country can do for you, but ask what you can do for your country.” At first this phrase seems a little contradictory to promoting the general welfare. But upon closer examination that is quite the opposite. Each of us must sacrifice in various ways to help each other. For most of us in modern America that sacrifice simply means paying our taxes.
I have many friends and acquaintances who constantly complain about paying taxes. Some of these people are retired public employees, school teachers. They are drawing state pensions. Who do they think paid their salaries while they were working, and who do they think are paying for their retirement pensions? We must all pay our fair share, so that we all may share the benefits of our great country. We should all want good schools for our children; we should all want safe highways and bridges; we should all want police protection; we should all want fire protection; we should all want a strong military to help keep us safe and secure; we should all want fair working conditions; and we should all want access to quality, affordable healthcare. Yet we can have none of these things if we are not willing to sacrifice some of our personal wealth for the betterment of our whole country.
There is talk from the Speaker of the House about trying to eliminate Medicare. I want you to imagine for a moment what would happen to our economy and our mutual economic well-being if tens of millions of seniors who depend on Medicare to meet their healthcare needs, suddenly lost this insurance protection. Their standards of living would plummet. They’re spending on discretionary items and services which drive a huge portion of our economy would plummet. There would be far fewer people buying cars, buying homes, taking cruises, taking vacations with their family and grandchildren, and all other things we could imagine. This would surely drive us into a severe economic depression. We must ask the question, how would this promote the general welfare, and how would this improve our union?
“And secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity”. What does this really mean? This is the summation of our country’s mission statement. The blessings of liberty certainly mean a few different things today than it did 250 years ago. And I would imagine that those words have small differences in meaning among all of us. But yet the foundation of those words should be the same for every American. It is the mission and the objective of this nation to ensure that all of its citizens have access to all of the things which most of us would define as “the blessings of liberty”. That can be a long list, but it should certainly include the right to have affordable access to high-quality health care. Remember, 250 years ago we had a rudimentary knowledge of the human body and of medicine. Our knowledge of science has increased exponentially over the last two centuries.
Amendment IX of our Constitution reads as follows: “The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people.” Our founding fathers were smart enough to realize that as times and conditions change the rights that were spelled out in the body of the Constitution and later in the amendments to it could certainly not all be listed in that original document.
It is my argument that when you take our Constitution as a whole, with the preamble being the mission statement of our country and our government, that we all have the right to quality, affordable healthcare. Even though these words are not strictly spelled out in the Constitution, this should be clear to everyone who is an American. We cannot fulfill our mission of forming a more perfect union, of establishing justice, of promoting the general welfare, and securing the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity if we do not include the most basic of human needs — healthcare.
Our forefathers didn’t spell out in the Constitution that we had the right to own a home, or to own a car. Cars one even invented yet. Home ownership was taken for granted is a basic right of man. And yet today no one debates these rights. But our Congress and our president seem to think that they can deny us an even more basic right which is to be healthy.
It is time for us to stand up and make sure that our leaders and our representatives read and understand our defining and governing document, the Constitution of the United States of America. It is time to stand up and make sure that our leaders adhere to that great document. And if they do not, it is our solemn duty to remove them from their respective offices. The preamble to this great document sets forth in clear and concise language the mission and objective and goal of everything that governs this country.