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When entering service to our country, civil officials and military personnel are asked to pledge allegiance to and protect the principles of the Constitution of the United States of America. This document, signed on September 17, 1787, was the final act of delegates to a constitutional convention that solidified the foundation of the government for our republic. From the preamble through its articles and amendments, the constitution provides a framework for democracy in the United States. Through a myriad of challenges over 233 years, the Constitution has provided basic principles and rights for citizens of this country that transcend our imperfect present.

As a durable behavioral guide, the constitution spells out expectations of a government for and by the people it serves. The Preamble begins with the words, “We the people…” indicating that the power of government is derived from those governed, not those elected by them to positions of authority. An oath of allegiance is similar for all inducted into civic service including the phrase: “…support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same…”

Although those composing and signing the original constitution were far from perfect, they recognized a model governance that differed from the rule of despots and monarchies without regard for, or true representation of the general public. Within the context of the time period of its composition, the proposed values and organizational structure was innovative and revolutionary, the work of true rebels with a cause. The constitution is not a static document, rather a visionary guide toward a future filled with unknown changes that would require constant interpretation of nuances. Current struggles and past amendments attest to the nature of its permanence. In effect, the founders of our country who formulated this organizational structure, created broad outlines that would demand constant tuning and modification within that paradigm.

Even as circumstances and events – obvious and subtle – shape the future, the constitution continues to offer continuity and context. When the strain of change challenges established principles, the venerable document is a reliable guide to a vision rather than concrete and immutable societal rules. That is the reason for a governmental system that includes three branches – executive, legislative, judicial. Each group is accorded its own role, but none granted absolute power. Currently, all three bodies are under intense scrutiny and subject to significant stress and change. We, the people, are being asked during this time of high anxiety to fulfill our obligation and responsibility to understand, pay attention and respond in a deliberate, serious and thoughtful manner without surrendering to hysteria, paranoia and specious fabrications.

Our nation’s forefathers described a world that did not really exist at the time, but erected a skeletal outline of what it could and should resemble in the future. We, the people, will determine the definitions of the terms. What does freedom and equality for all really mean? What are the limits of individual liberty? What are the roles for each part of our republic?

These are basic questions that will determine the strength and durability of our system of laws and government. This year’s election cycle, confronting a pandemic, supreme court vacancy and civil unrest, is a defining moment in the road toward “a more perfect Union.” Within a whirlwind of controversies, abnormal circumstances and actions, it is imperative that each person who has the right to vote, does so.