Americans need to understand the Constitution

Americans need to understand the Constitution

The United States Constitution is the oldest system of government in place today.  It is responsible for binding together the most powerful nation in the world, yet according to a recent poll taken by the Annenberg Public Policy Center, only 26% of Americans can name the three branches of our government.  27% of Americans could name one branch, 13% knew two branches, 1% refused to answer, and 33% could not name any branches of government.  

Consider the implications of this data.  If 74% of Americans cannot name all three of the branches of government, it is logical to assume that they do not understand why we have three branches of government.  They do not understand that our government’s separation of powers at all levels of government prevents one branch from becoming too powerful.  They do not understand that these measures were put in place in order to prevent the government from trampling on their rights as American citizens.  Most importantly, how can they expect to understand that the Constitution puts them in control of these branches of government so that if they believe that any of the branches is not acting in their best interests, they can make their voices heard using the power of their vote?

Despite the fact that its supreme law is the oldest in existence, the United States is one of the youngest countries in the world.  This past July, the United States turned two hundred and forty-one years old.  The United States Constitution has been in place for two hundred and twenty-eight years.  Nations such as Greece, France, and China have been around for thousands of years, yet they cannot claim the oldest system of government.  Through the years, their governments have risen and fallen after trying and failing to adapt to the political landscape changing around them.  The United States Constitution is unique in that it is the first of its kind to establish a strong federal government while checking its power by placing it in the hands of the people. It is a robust and amendable document that is written so that it may persevere through the ages. 

​It is for this reason, among many others, that we as Americans should educate ourselves about our system of government.  If our constitution places power in the hands of the governed, shouldn't we take the time to understand how our government works?  The answer is a resounding yes.  Read the Constitution.  Learn about the history of the founding of our nation.  Doing so will allow Americans to comprehend and effectively implement their rights and responsibilities as American citizens.  If we do not take on the responsibility that comes with the powers given to us by the Constitution, we risk losing those powers. 

​As he departed from the Constitutional Convention in 1787, a woman waiting outside asked Dr. Benjamin Franklin what kind of government the delegates had given the United States.  Dr. Franklin replied, “A republic, if you can keep it.”  The founders of our nation did, in fact, give us a republic.  It is in our hands to keep it.  

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