Constitution Day: Upholding the Values and Ideals of Our Founding Document

Op-Ed by Matt Dolan

This weekend, as one nation, Americans will commemorate the 236th anniversary of the signing of the U.S. Constitution. While it often comes with far less fanfare than the signing of the Declaration of Independence, the annual occurrence provides every citizen, young and old, with the opportunity to reflect on a monumental set of shared values that forged the foundation for a new form of government and made the United States of America exceptional.

September 17 marks the day in 1787 when delegates gathered in Philadelphia, concluding four months of deliberations and agreeing upon a collection of principles that still govern us today. But the signing of the Constitution was merely the beginning, as it still required ratification by at least nine of thirteen states. It wasn’t until June of the following year, when New Hampshire became that ninth state, that the United States Constitution was officially ratified and adopted.

Ohio possesses notable standing when it comes to honoring the Constitution and Bill of Rights. Louisville, Ohio is widely recognized as Constitution Town thanks to the efforts of Olga Weber. In 1952, Olga petitioned local officials in Louisville to establish Constitution Day. This led Mayor Gerald Romary to proclaim September 17, 1952, as Constitution Day in the city. The following year, Ms. Weber requested that the Ohio General Assembly proclaim September 17 as Constitution Day statewide. Her request was signed into law by Governor Frank J. Lausche before she successfully petitioned the U.S. Senate to pass a resolution designating September 17–23 as Constitution Week. After the Senate and House approved her request, it was signed into law by President Dwight D. Eisenhower.

Fast forward to present day, and we are again reminded of the enduring values that our Constitution established: a government of the people, by the people, and for the people, which derives its powers by the consent of the governed. In enshrining the principles of individual liberty, limited government and the rule of law, the Framers exhibited the kind of wisdom and restraint that we should still demand from our elected leaders today. These are the principles and standards I take most seriously as a public servant.

One need not look far to recognize and appreciate the kinds of rights and liberties we as Americans enjoy are merely a pipedream in many parts of the world. Our Constitution serves as a bulwark against the abuse of power, ensuring that each branch of government has appropriate checks on the others and that individual rights are protected and defended.

For millions of men and women around the globe, the idea of being free to speak, to worship, to assemble or to petition their government is a distant, likely forever unattainable, aspiration. By contrast, in the United States, these freedoms are contained explicitly within the First Amendment of the Bill of Rights.

As we celebrate Constitution Day, we should also reflect not only on our fortune of such a document ever being written, but also on what we as a citizenry must do to preserve these values and ideals for future generations. That begins with having a commitment to civic education and engagement, as a well-informed and active citizenry is essential to upholding a system of self-governance.

There is a lot of division and polarization in our politics currently. Disagreement on issues is not only acceptable but necessary for preserving a healthy democracy. But for our system of government to continue flourishing, it must be grounded in a set of basic, fundamental principles under which we all abide and respect. For more than 230 years, the United States Constitution has provided us with that set of unifying principles. I believe it still does today.

Matt Dolan is a State Senator and Republican candidate for U.S. Senate. He is currently in his second term serving the 24th State Senate District, which includes portions of Cuyahoga County.