Sep. 17—"We the People of the United States ..."
So begins the Preamble of the U.S. Constitution, perhaps the most important 52-word sentence in American history.
On this day, Sept. 17, we observe Constitution Day and Citizenship Day to commemorate the signing of the U.S. Constitution in Philadelphia on Sept. 17, 1787.
The Constitution is really quite a simple document. Its short Preamble serves to explain what its purpose is: to establish a new form of government.
The Preamble is followed by seven articles, signed on Sept. 17, 1787, and ratified on June 21, 1788, that explain exactly how that new government will be structured. The first three articles establish the legislative, executive and judicial branches; the remaining four outline the amendment and ratification processes and recognize the power of states and citizens.
And that's it — a few paragraphs to provide the framework for the government we still have today.
Of course, over the years, we have added the famous Bill of Rights, ratified Dec. 15, 1791, and other amendments — 27 in total. These amendments ensure some of our most important freedoms: the rights to due process and a speedy trial, the abolition of slavery, the right to vote and the right to bear arms, among others.
The First Amendment is the most critical, and the one on which all other freedoms depend. It guarantees the freedoms of religion, speech, press, assembly and petition.
As your community newspaper, we have always advocated for these First Amendment freedoms. Our government, in order to function properly, relies on its citizens being allowed to say what they want without fear of censorship by government agencies. It also depends heavily on a free press (that's us) to report truthfully and fairly on its management and to hold elected officials accountable to the people.
On this day, we celebrate the Constitution and all of the freedoms it affords us, and we pledge to always be fierce defenders of everyone's First Amendment rights.