Wednesday, January 20, 2010

The Land of the Free

I am teaching a class this semester on the Constitution of the United States. Each week my students (12-15 year olds) are asked to write a paper on a given topic. This week they were to write on - What Makes America Different? To be an effective mentor, one must have traveled the road before. Therefore, if I ask my students to write, I must write too. So here is my paper...

America, the land of the free. Have you ever stopped to wonder why it is called this? Why is no other nation in the world referred to in this way? What makes America special?

The founding fathers studied all forms of government prior to the Revolutionary War. They noted that throughout history an alarming cycle had been established; a violent swing between tyranny and anarchy. Whenever a people revolted against a tyrant, the people would rejoice in their new freedom for only a brief time. Then anarchy would set in as the people rejected any form of government. Then another tyrant would rise to power as he promised to reestablish peace to the people. The people would live under tyranny for a time and then revolt again. This occurred over and over and was the greatest fear of the founding fathers as the Revolutionary War drew to a close. How could they keep their new found freedom and avoid repeating this awful cycle?

As the founding fathers studied the governments of the past, they came to realize that there were certain principles that if established would ensure the freedom and prosperity of the people. They knew that to stop this cycle of tyranny and anarchy they would need to write a constitution. This constitution would provide a system of checks and balances to ensure peace. The powers of the government would be well defined and limited. There would be a separation of these powers between different branches assuring that no one branch could gain complete control. They recognized that governments were established for the benefit of the people, not to control the people. Their new constitution would ensure the rights of the people and allow them to retain their sovereignty. The new government would encourage the free market system, allowing people to own property and establish businesses for themselves. The constitution outlined how officials were to be elected, when and by whom. This assured the peaceful transfer of power from one leader to the next. These were just a few of the principles the founding fathers included in the constitution.

The constitution of the United States is one of the greatest documents that has ever been written. It is based on sound principles that when followed ensures the freedom of the people. As a nation we have enjoyed these freedoms for over 200 years. However, in the last few decades, the constitution has slowly been eroded away. Government officials are usurping power from others, refusing to keep in check those who abuse their power and ignoring many of the principles outlined in the Constitution. This is leading to the erosion of our rights and freedoms. If our nation is to continue for another 200 years, those who say our constitution is outdated and “old-fashioned” need to be removed from office. We must elect only individuals of integrity that will honor and uphold the constitution. We must re-establish the principles that have been removed and begin again to educate the people. People need to understand their responsibility in maintaining a free nation. They need to understand that it is our Constitution that ensures these freedoms. It is the Constitution that makes America the land of the free.

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