Constitution and Citizenship Day

09-15-2006

On September 17, 1787, 55 delegates to the Constitutional Convention at the State House in Philadelphia (now known as Independence Hall) ratified a four-page document that provided the foundations for our republic: the Constitution of the United States of America.

Beginning in 2005, academic institutions across the country have offered educational programming to commemorate that singular accomplishment.

The U.S. Constitution took shape as a document that would describe the form our country’s government should take. But perhaps more important, it explicitly was written to secure the liberties of the people, by defining specific limits on the power of the national government and the states over the people.

And unlike some other places around the world where visitors and citizens have very different rights, the rights protected in and enshrined by our Constitution protect everyone in this country, regardless of their countries of origin.

It can be difficult to comprehend, particularly when traveling abroad (as so many MSU students and faculty do), that rights we consider to be innate and inviolable simply do not exist for citizens of many other countries, nor do our rights as U.S. citizens travel with us when we go abroad.

Here, we not only share in those freedoms—both among ourselves and with guests in our country—but we also shoulder an essential responsibility with our fellow citizens for maintaining them. That’s why the September 17 commemoration is known as “Constitution and Citizenship Day.”

There’s an old adage that says people get the government they deserve. One of the advantages of our system is that that as citizens of this country, we have the opportunity to make our voices heard as a part of the democratic process that chooses our government.

But if you want that voice, you’ve got to vote. And if you want to vote, you’ve got to register.

Last Sunday, we had Michigan’s mobile Secretary of State van on campus. It was here as part of MSU’s “You Vote” program, to give tailgaters and those attending the football game an opportunity to get registered.

If you didn’t have the chance to register on Sunday, you still can do so over at the Secretary of State’s office at the corner of Albert and Charles, just a block north of Grand River in East Lansing or at the Ingham County Clerk’s office (if you live on or near campus).

This year, September 17 falls on Sunday. So I encourage you to take some time Friday, Monday, or over the weekend to take another look at the words of the Constitution and to think about what it means for you. And while you’re at it, see if your voter registration is up-to-date as well.

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