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* Ms. CHU. Mr. Speaker, I rise today in support of the reading of the American Constitution on the Floor of the House of Representatives. Our founding fathers spent nearly four months debating the original Constitution during the summer of 1787. They spent the following two and a half years securing the support of each of the thirteen original colonies. Since the constitutional convention in Philadelphia, the Constitution has been debated and successfully amended a total of 27 times. Today, we take an important step by recognizing this important history of debate and change.
* When it was originally drafted, the American Constitution laid out a framework of government that reflected their best of understanding of the world as it existed in 1787. That document included many important insights and compromises, but the drafters realized that the Constitution--and the great Nation it created--would only last if the Constitution could adapt and change to meet the challenges of the day. That is why the drafters included a mechanism in the Constitution to change the very document they spent months crafting.
* As we are all aware, the first exercise of this amendment mechanism concluded in December 1791 when our young Country ratified the Bill of Rights. Those ten amendments embody some of our most important protections from government power including the freedom of speech, protection from unreasonable searches and seizures, and the guarantee of due process.
* During the 19th and 20th Centuries the American people amended the Constitution by adding to Congress's express constitutional powers and ensuring Congress has all the tools necessary to address national problems and protect the rights of all Americans. Shortly after the U. S. Civil War, the Constitution was amended to abolish slavery, guarantee the equal protection of the law to all Americans, and guaranteeing the right to vote. With these changes, ``We the People'' expanded the power to Congress to protect the promises of freedom and equality for all Americans.
* I could go on, but my point is not to give a history of the Constitution but to explain how the Constitution has changed for the better. Without these changes, a Chinese-American woman, like me, would never be able to vote in this Country much less serve as a member of Congress. With these powers, Congress has not only been given great power by the American people, it has also been given great responsibility. That responsibility includes ensuring that all Americans, regardless of race, ethnicity, religion, creed, gender, gender identification, or sexual orientation, have the opportunity to pursue their own version of happiness.
* I welcome this reading today as a symbol of the Constitution as a living document. Our understanding of the Constitution is constantly changing and evolving just as the words of the constitution have changed over time. If anything has remained constant, it is the principles espoused by that great document. Those principles ensure that we will have a representative government, ``of the people, by the people, and for the people,'' and that this government will protect the core values of liberty, equality, and opportunity. I look forward to working with my friends across the aisle to ensure this Congress uses its broad powers to promote these values.
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