Did you enjoy the special days in September? You’re probably thinking that I spelled that wrong and meant special “day” – meaning Labor Day. Actually, I was referring to Labor Day and the other day that is reserved for special observance in September. You know, Sept. 17. Oh, you didn’t know that? Neither did I. You see, Sept. 17 is Constitution Day, so named because the Constitution was signed on that date in 1787.
The idea of celebrating the Constitution began right here in the great state of Iowa in 1911. By 1948, the governors of all the states (48 at the time) had issued proclamations recognizing it. In 1952, Congress recognized it and, in 2004, it was established as an American federal observance with a requirement that on that day of the year, school children be given instruction on the history of the American Constitution.
I wonder how many of us could pass a test given to our children or grandchildren about the Constitution? Let’s be honest, how many of us have read even the first paragraph of the document since high school? If you haven’t read it for a while, here it is:
We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.
So what does this say in today’s language? The framers wanted to improve on the government that had been formed after the Revolutionary War, which was essentially a confederation of independent states. They wanted to ensure that this new “federal” government would be just and would protect the people from internal strife and from outside attack. They wanted to ensure the new government would benefit the people rather than injure them. And, interestingly, it pledged to establish these ideas as the foundation of government for future generations of Americans.
The rest of the language of the Constitution spells out how the goals in the preamble are to be achieved and include the establishment of Congress (legislative branch representing the states), the Presidency (executive branch), and the Courts (judicial branch). It also notes the methods for adding new states, ensuring citizens of all states have the same rights, and provides a method for amending the Constitution if needed. The Framers provided 10 amendments during the following two years and these became known collectively as the “Bill of Rights.” As an aside, the original Constitution and Bill of Rights were only six pages long. Handwritten, no less. In comparison, the current federal tax code alone is 16,458 pages long, typewritten.
So why do I take up valuable space in your newspaper to talk about the Constitution? Simply this – we are less than a month away from what may be the most important presidential election of our lifetimes. Regardless of our political persuasion, it is imperative that we understand the positions of the candidates and understand what we are voting for in November. This election represents the comparison of two very different points of view on the role of government. There are merits to both sides of the issue and I will not argue for either here. What I will say is that it is our responsibility as American citizens to understand the big issues at play before we cast our ballot. I also think that to understand the impact of our vote, we need to understand the history of our country, especially the ideas it was founded on.
Perhaps you are thinking, “I only cast one vote, Jasper County is a small county, and Iowa is a small state.” Would you be surprised to learn that Iowa is considered a swing state in this election and may have a big impact on the eventual outcome? Would you also be surprised to know that Jasper County is considered a swing county in this election? It was only a couple of elections ago that the presidential race was decided by a few hundred voters in Florida. Every vote counts. Your vote counts!
The American Hospital Association and the Iowa Hospital Association are encouraging all health-care workers in the country to be active in the process this year. The demands on the health-care system will only grow in the future and payment for health-care services will only decrease. Right here at Skiff, more than 60 percent of all the dollars coming in our door come from the government; thus, the government has a bigger impact on our professions and our organization than any other single entity. And the future direction of our government is what will be decided in this election. In a forthcoming article, I will discuss which party is the best for health care and why.
Bottom-line: Now is the time to dig through the campaign commercials, the mudslinging and the politics to get to the core ideas of each candidate. Now is the time to understand and decide which direction you believe is right for the country. The election is only weeks away; please make sure you are ready to vote on Nov. 6.