On Friday, Sept. 14, Sen. Tom Carper (D-Del.) delivered the 2nd Annual James R. Soles Lecture on the Constitution and Citizenship at the University of Delaware. Below is an excerpt of his address:
"Our challenges today pale by comparison to the challenges that our Founding Fathers faced 225 years ago in drafting our Constitution. Among the thorny issues they dealt with were slavery and the rights of women, and equal representation, not to mention how to organize this new Republic. Yet somehow they got the job done, or really, they got the job started, because no sooner had we ratified the Constitution than we started thinking about how to amend it with what became the Bill of Rights. And for over two centuries, our Constitution, and the United States of America for that matter, has been a work in progress as we strive to make our union more perfect.
"Every now and then after a particularly disappointing week where we spent more time in the Senate attempting to score political points than trying to govern, I'll get off the train in Wilmington and head home. There, I'll pick up a well-read biography of Henry Clay -- a distant relative of mine. I only have to read a chapter before I'm struck with this reality -- If we think our country is in a mess now, we'd do well to revisit the history of the first half of the 19th Century. Given the turmoil of those years, we're lucky to have made it to the Civil War, much less through it. But our union survived that war and went on to overcome the Great Depression and win two world wars and the Cold War to boot. In fact, America emerged at the dawn of the 21st Century not only as a nation at peace but as one with the strongest economy on earth, with balanced budgets and surpluses as far as the eye could see, and with the most productive workforce on earth. We were the most admired nation on this planet and the mightiest force for justice, too. If we can accomplish all that, we can find a way through the minefield that we find ourselves in today.
"A lot of people are counting on us to do just that. Several times each month, I see some of them in and around the basement of our Capitol as I head to the floor to vote. They are disabled GI's, often in wheelchairs -- wounded in places like Afghanistan and Iraq. Some are missing arms or legs, some both, some without eyesight. But despite losing these things, there's something they haven't lost: their devotion to our country and the hope that we won't forget them in their hour of need. I always try to stop, say hello, ask what branch they served in, mention that I spent 23 years in the Navy, and thank them for their service to our country. A month or two ago, one of them said to me, 'Thank you for your service and your sacrifice, Senator.' I had a hard time getting his words out of my mind that day. 'My sacrifice?' I thought. What about his sacrifice?
"His sacrifice, and the sacrifice of the others who visit our Capitol from time to time, deserve far more than mere words of thanks. They merit a solemn rededication from each of us to the principles on which our nation is built -- principles that are embedded in the preamble to our Constitution. A commitment to redouble our efforts to form a more perfect Union, to establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity. A commitment not to living out our lives in blue states or red states, but a commitment to making better the lives of all of us who live in these United States."