Two-and-a-quarter centuries ago, our Founding Fathers signed one of the most influential documents in world history. In operation since 1789, the U.S. Constitution established an unparalleled framework of democratic government -- sealing the principles of limited power, equal justice, and rule of law that continue to guide our country today.
The founders of our republic knew from experience that governments often become too powerful and that the new order would need to set limits on the excesses of authority. The Constitution they devised is carefully balanced, creating three separate branches of government and putting specific checks on federal power. As John Adams described, it is "the greatest single effort of national deliberation that the world has ever seen."
A Day to Honor American Citizenship
The celebration of Constitution Day each year on September 17 is a moment to commemorate the signing of our founding document and the uniqueness of American citizenship. The origins of the national observance can be traced to 1940, when Congress designated the third Sunday in May as "I Am an American Day."
In 1952, Congress changed the date to September 17, and in 2004 it was renamed "Constitution Day and Citizenship Day." That year, legislation introduced by the late Sen. Robert Byrd added requirements for federally funded schools and federal agencies to support educational programs on the importance of the Constitution.
Earlier this year, I introduced the Senate resolution recognizing the 225th anniversary of the Constitution's signing. In particular, the resolution honors the important contributions of historical, educational, and patriotic societies in educating the public about our national heritage.
Resilient Principles, New Challenges
The test of time has reaffirmed the Constitution's exceptionalism, and the values it enshrines are as strong today as they were two-and-a-quarter centuries ago. Countries across the globe have embraced our model of representative government, and millions have chosen to become American citizens because of the ideals we hold dear.
Protecting the character of the Constitution is not without challenges. During the past four years, the Obama Administration has tried repeatedly to bypass Congress and expand the reach of executive power. The President's unconstitutional recess appointments and misuse of executive orders are at odds with the Constitution's separation of powers and put political ambitions before rule of law. The troubling trend threatens to undermine our representative democracy, and both political parties in Congress should object to the President's unlawful overreach.
Spirit of "We, the People'
As we observe Constitution Day, it is important to remember that it took courage and sacrifice to secure America's freedom and democracy. Our revolutionary leaders had a brave vision, and their great experiment would change the course of history.
The Constitution's spirit of "We, the People" calls on every American citizen to be informed and active participants in the democratic processes of our government. In honoring Constitution Day, we celebrate one of the greatest moments in American history, and we ensure that the many "Blessings of Liberty" are not forgotten by this generation and those to come.