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U.S. Constitution and inevitable change

On Sept. 17, "We the People of the United States" are invited to celebrate Constitution Day. It was on that day in 1788 that the delegates to the Constitutional Convention met in Philadelphia to sign the Constitution, which has served well as our country's guidepost for over two and a quarter centuries. ("Harford Community College celebrates Constitution Day with Sept. 17 lecture on political cartoons Sept. 5).

Our national successes notwithstanding, the genius of the Constitution challenges us to question whether a governing document drafted with a quill pen and signed by men arriving on horseback is wholly relevant in a world of computers and supersonic flight. The fact that it has been formally amended 27 times and subject to extensive judicial interpretations leaves little doubt that ours is not yet a perfect government and further change is inevitable. But as we continue forward in that ever elusive search for constitutional perfection, we are wise to pause to celebrate the historic achievement that is our Constitution and reflect upon its global impact. By enshrining in a constitution the principles of the rule of law, separation of powers and individual rights, our colonial fathers and mothers changed the course of world history. Their collective achievement inspired freedom and prosperity, both at home and around the globe, like no other human event.

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Unfortunately, it appears to be increasingly in vogue that, rather than build upon our heritage, we denigrate or even totally reject our Constitution and its drafters. This is most regrettable. The founders, though flawed like we are in so many ways, had the wisdom, courage and fortitude to create a new system of government intended not to perpetuate their personal fortunes but to capture for posterity the benefit of the collective wisdom of the great minds of the last 4,000 years. That uniquely momentous act unleashed the opportunity to move forward, not to instant perfection but away from the exceedingly harsh conditions of the world into which the founders were themselves born. They bequeathed to us the freedom and opportunity to chart a path toward a more perfect union.

So now, in our own troubled times, as we search for a way forward on that elusive path toward a more perfect union, let us pray that we too might have the wisdom and courage to take up that historic task with renewed spirit. And while our nation's ultimate success in that endeavor will forever be in question, let us at least approach our earthly share of that task with the spirit of humility and unity urged by President Abraham Lincoln — "with malice toward none, with charity for all, with firmness in the right as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in."

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Sen. Bob Cassilly, Bel Air

The writer, a Republican, represents District 34, Harford County, in the Maryland Senate.

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