Constitution grants freedoms but also carries responsibilities

"Each year, on September 17th, all federally funded schools, colleges and universities celebrate "Constitution Day," on a commemoration of the day in 1787 when, after exhaustive (and exhausting) deliberation, our founders signed the document that would become the law of our land, the Constitution.

"At Oswego State, we’ve chosen to commemorate the signing with a week of panels, talks, films and a rousing reading of the Constitution, organized by members of the Department of Theatre. We also gleefully hand out pocket Constitutions and register new voters.

"All these opportunities allow us to reflect on what we, and many other Americans usually take for granted: the rights and responsibilities our law guarantees us as U.S. citizens. This year, we’ve already had a chance to learn a host of things. For instance, some of those Constitutional rights–including the right to elect our senators or even call ourselves citizens–can be challenged. Indeed, anyone following the headlines see how they have been recently.

"Also, huge amounts of misinformation regarding Constitutional issues circulate, and we have a responsibility to be careful about our sources as we make decisions.

"Most importantly, through Constitution Week we can more fully appreciate that "We the People" refers to, well, us—the People, not to someone else who will take care of us or govern us, and not to a particular political party. We are charged with governing ourselves as individuals and as a collective, that’s a big responsibility, but not prohibitively so. That means we have to be able to know a lot and be willing to do a lot.

"Luckily, we have plenty of options, thanks to the Constitution. We can petition authorities, we can seek redress of grievances and we can run for office–but we are not really living the Constitution if we just sit around and complain.

"A form of government that requires so much of us can be time consuming and frustrating, but also and endlessly rewarding. This year we celebrate the 90th anniversary of the 19th Amendment, granting women the right to vote. Even being able to work toward, much less achieve, such a landmark expansion of citizenship rights could not have been possible before the revolutionary document of 1787. Changes like these are a testament to the versatility of our founding document.

"Of course there is much more work to be done. Join your fellow students in living the Constitution. Investigate, advocate, legislate, demonstrate and agitate for what you think is right and important. And (even though it breaks up my rhyme scheme) register and vote!

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