What the Constitution Means to Me
I’ll be honest; five months ago the only thing I knew about the Constitution of the United States was that it began with “We the People of the United States.” Then this summer I was required to study the document to prepare for AP Government. During my reading I was surprised and unsettled to learn that its language, upon which our government relies, is often vague and unclear. However, despite the weaknesses of the Constitution, I’ve come to the realization that the Constitution’s vague language gives it the power to be adaptable and satisfy our country’s changing needs.
I was surprised to discover how unclear some of the powers allocated to the different branches of our government are stated in the Constitution. Judicial review is never formally stated, but it is one of the strongest checks on the other government branches. Further, Congress’ essential authority to pass additional laws is implied only and never specifically mentioned in the necessary and proper clause. Finally, in the Executive Branch, White House staff is crucial advisers to the President, but they are appointed and not subject to Congressional review or vote by the people.
I was unsettled to learn that the Constitution is often interpreted very narrowly. This is especially concerning of Supreme Court decisions, which continue to solidify our country’s laws. The main focus of the authors of the Constitution was to avoid the creation of another tyrannical monarchy and create a central democratic government for their time and for posterity. They could not anticipate future challenges faced by our nation. When Justices base decisions on a literal interpretation of Constitution justice is not reflective of present.
After examining all seven articles and twenty-seven amendments in the Constitution, I was ultimately impressed by the power of a document that can be condensed into a 45-page booklet that fits into my backpack. The Constitution of the United States is one of the oldest documents in our nation’s history, and yet it is used to clarify or justify actions by our government as well as define the government’s formal and informal powers. It is a testament to the foresight of the authors that this document addressed the challenges of their time and yet the language is broad enough accommodates the challenges of future generations.