As we enter the final stretch of one of the most interesting presidential races in this generation, we should seriously reflect on the relevance of the Constitution, which was signed by the Founders 221 years ago during the past week. Such reflection reveals both the wonderful promise of America and the perils facing it.
The presence of Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama and Republican vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin ensure the smashing of prejudices and vindicate the promise of our Constitution.
Like the American Revolution and Declaration of Independence, the Constitution is based on certain first principles: the rule of law, equality, limited government and unalienable rights.
For far too long, America's commitment to equality was stained by terrible racial and gender bias. That the highest offices of the republic are within reach of a biracial man and a woman reveals the power of the idea of equality and the significant (albeit incomplete) progress America has made.
The election also highlights the fragility of our freedom.
We should be delighted that this election has engaged so many people. But in a society enraptured by the misbehavior of maladjusted celebrities, we need to leverage this election to increase the understanding of our Constitution.
We utterly depend on an informed electorate to maintain our freedoms and liberties. Yet there is overwhelming evidence of our ignorance and disdain of the Constitution and American history. Many studies reveal that our K-12 students, college students and the general public lack a basic understanding of our system of free government.
We are fools to think our free society will survive if we are ignorant of, or attack, what preserves our liberties. The people are the ultimate guardians of their own freedom -- and for far too long we have been abdicating that responsibility. And these are self-inflicted wounds -- the very definition of suicide.
As we complete this exciting election cycle, we must evaluate the candidates and determine whether their policies are consistent with or undermine equality, other rights, limited government and the rule of law.
We should demand that the candidates actually explain whether their proposals align with the Constitution and our foundational history.
Likewise, Americans should demand that our political leadership undertake several strong and critical reforms to preserve our freedoms.
These would include adopting an American freedom curriculum, in which American history and civics are taught every year in K-12. Teacher preparation and the bar exam should be changed so all teachers and lawyers are well versed in our history and principles.
By placing the Constitution and its principles at the forefront of the election and the reform agenda, we will have a hope of stopping ourselves from drinking our collective hemlock.
(Originally published in The Detroit News)
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