Spartans reflect on the Constitution

09-19-2017

From the song “Non-stop,” Hamilton: An American Musical, by Lin-Manuel Miranda—

AARON BURR: The constitution’s a mess.
ALEXANDER HAMILTON: So it needs amendments.
BURR: It’s full of contradictions.
HAMILTON: So is independence.

As the Broadway hit Hamilton the Musical makes evident, democracy can be messy, contradictory, and frustrating. But I take great pleasure in contemplating the imperfect yet durable document that frames our political system. As we do each year, Spartans joined others around the country in observing Constitution Day, September 17.

It has been argued that ours is becoming a more polarized society, one less tolerant of contrary views and where advocates are more apt to place particular rights above others. Our nation’s founders also struggled with great divisions among themselves, yet found a way to hammer out a durable, flexible blueprint for a unified society.

Idealistic yet pragmatic, the founders sought merely “a more perfect union” when they set out to draft the Constitution. The rights enumerated in the document, and its subsequent Bill of Rights and later amendments, often operate in tension, if not outright conflict. Events today continue to test our constitutional guarantees as various rights compete. But even as our society seems to periodically separate into hostile factions, the Constitution remains the most important set of principles that collectively defines what makes us Americans.

The featured lecture for this year’s celebration of the Constitution is scheduled for October 18, sponsored by James Madison College. George Thomas, the Burnet C. Wohlford Professor of American Political Institutions at Claremont McKenna College, will speak on campus at a place and time yet to be determined. Watch the MSU calendar of events for details.

Meanwhile, MSU has joined the Big 10 Voting Challenge, a campaign to encourage students to exercise their right to vote. Voting is an essential component of being an active and engaged citizen, and all 14 presidents and chancellors of the Big 10 Conference have signed on to this nonpartisan initiative. You can read more about it here.

I hope well after Constitution Day passes, Spartans on campus and beyond will continue to engage in meaningful conversations that seek to better understand the importance of preserving freedoms while upholding our values—a topic that’s as relevant as ever. 

 

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