We The People: How 3 Words Can Change America

Each year on September 17, public schools commemorate the anniversary of the signing of the U.S. Constitution. Those of us old enough to remember Schoolhouse Rock, can recite the constitution’s preamble…

“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.”

It’s now 228 years later and this country still has a lot of work to do to form a more perfect union, establish justice, and insure domestic tranquility — as well as make good on the other important goals set forth in the preamble.

How can we fulfill the promise of the constitution? The answer is in the first three words, “we the people.” We each have a responsibility to do our part to help our neighbors, our communities, our state and our nation rise to meet the challenges of the 21st century.

DJ Speaking 3 SMALL CROPPEDI am an advocate of civic education in Montana’s public schools. U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor said “citizenship is not something that is passed on through the gene pool, it’s something that must be taught.”

Our schools have a responsibility to teach students about the privileges and responsibilities of citizenship, and our students have a right to learn about our country’s complicated and not-always-perfect history, how the different branches of government work, and how each person can have a voice, and a vote, in the decisions that impact their lives.

On Thursday, Sept. 17, celebrate Constitution Day by registering to vote, writing a letter to the editor about an issue you believe in or get a group of friends to stand together and recite the preamble.

If you’re an educator, there are many great resources you can use in your classroom. Check out the Montana Office of Public Instruction’s civic engagement webpage. Plus, the Civic Renewal Network also has lesson plans and activities. Montana’s Secretary of State has also developed a civic engagement toolkit.

I truly believe we can live up to the aspiration of the preamble, but only if we make sure future generations gain the knowledge and skills they need to be an engaged citizens. That good can only be reached by teaching and learning civic education more than just one day a year.