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Celebrate The Business Plan

September 17th is Constitution Day. America will commemorate the 221st anniversary of the great document’s signing. The day is second only to July 4th in national importance, but where are the parades? Where are the fireworks? The incredible United States Constitution, a document that is shorter than any other nation’s constitution and has been working longer than any other constitution in the world, gets no respect. The Declaration of Independence gets all the glory, but no President has ever sworn to preserve, protect and defend the Declaration. The Declaration is read aloud at major patriotic events, has millions of copies hung on walls and even gets to star in a major motion picture.  Meanwhile, no one ever seems to get beyond the preamble of the Constitution. Why does the Constitution get the short end of the stick?  I’ve concluded it’s because the Declaration of Independence is the mission statement and the Constitution is the business plan.

     Why should a mission statement be more popular than a business plan? It’s all about the dream. People love it when a baseball player calls his shot and points a finger out into the stands. People loved it when President Kennedy said, “We chose to go to the moon.” People, especially the American people, love big, beautiful, ambitious dreams. As a rule we are not so crazy about the hours of physical discipline, training and sacrifice required to make a home run possible or the years of engineering, debate and trials involved in making a ship that goes to the moon. We have lost our respect for the hard work, the heavy lifting and the long hours involved in making a dream possible.

  In 1786, the dream of America was slipping away. There was talk of states seceding from the union, news of Shay’s Rebellion and the economy teetering on complete collapse. The form of United States government was laid out in the Articles of Confederation, a government intentionally kept very weak in order to protect the country’s hard won Liberty and Independence.







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    When the Philadelphia convention of 1787 was called together, it was under orders to strengthen the Articles and fix the ineffectual parts of government. It was already apparent to some at the convention that only a complete rewrite would solve the problems, and so the long, hard, tedious work began. The work of creating a new system of government, one strong enough to effectively govern without endangering the rights and sovereignty of the people and States, would take almost four months of proposal, argument and compromise in the stifling heat of a Philadelphia summer. Even then the work was not complete. There was still the need for a Bill of Rights, for the States to approve the new charter and for the ongoing process of amendment. The final document, while imperfect, was a work of genius that is still studied as a model of government today. It became the blueprint for our nation and the business plan for achieving the dream described in the Declaration of Independence.

     If you focus exclusively on a post card of your dream destination and never consult a map you can find yourself far from your target. Today, the Constitution stands with 27 amendments.  Some of these amendments have strengthened the Constitution, and some have diminished it. Legislators and Justices argue its intent and meaning. It remains the only thing that stands in the center between the extremes of anarchy on one side and tyranny on the other. A Government of the People, as long as the people value such a thing. Maybe that is why we should make a big deal out of Constitution Day. If we don’t know what the Constitution says and we don’t demand that our Government continues to obey its clearly outlined powers, we could lose that dream laid out in the Declaration of Independence. And then we won’t need to celebrate the 4th of July either.


  D.H.T. Shippey   September 08





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