Congratulations to Connor Merk for being selected as the Third Annual Stafford Republican Committee Scholarship for 2019 winner.
The Living Constitution
By Connor Merk
The United States Constitution has been the staple of our Democratic Republic form of government since it was ratified in 1788. The Constitution embodies all of the ideals and values of this nation, which includes the liberties and freedoms that we enjoy each day and demonstrates that it is still alive today.
Our founding fathers realized that if our government was going to stand the test of time, the Constitution would have to be flexible. There are several features that the founders included to make the document flexible with the times, specifically the amendment process. The amendment process is outlined in Article V, which states that a ⅔ majority is needed in both houses of Congress or ⅔ of the 50 states must call for a national convention to discuss and propose amendments. The ratification process requires ¾ of the state legislatures to approve or ¾ consent of state ratifying conventions. The Constitution has 27 amendments, which has allowed our government to flourish in decades of hardships and challenges, and in times of war and prosperity.
Another feature that allows the Constitution to be flexible is in Article I, Section 8. The Necessary and Proper Clause, also known as the Elastic Clause, states that only laws that are necessary and proper can pass through Congress. An example of a successful use of this clause is Thomas Jefferson’s purchase of the Louisiana Territory from France. There was no specific law that gave Thomas Jefferson the right to purchase land from another nation, but waiting for a specific constitutional amendment would likely have caused the deal to fail and a European nation could have bought the land, which would have halted the westward expansion of the United States.
The founders knew they could not foresee what issues would face future Americans, so they were wise to include specific instructions for changing times.
One of the freedoms that I appreciate the most in the Constitution is from the Fourteenth Amendment. In 1954, this amendment gave the Supreme Court the ability to decide that the era segregation must end in the case of Brown v. Board of Education. This decision made life much better in the United States. My best friend is African-American, and we became friends during our freshman year of high school. We would never have had the opportunity to meet if not for the Fourteenth Amendment. The specific clause that enabled the dismantlement of segregation in America was the Equal Protection Clause that states, “No State shall…deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.” This clause has given Americans the opportunity to meet people with different backgrounds which help them develop a better worldview.
Another freedom that I enjoy is the freedom of speech. This freedom is given to us through the First Amendment. There is a reason that the founders listed this amendment as number 1 in the Bill of Rights and in the Constitution. They included free speech in the First Amendment because it is one of the most important rights that American citizens have in our nation. This freedom has given me the ability to be outspoken about my political beliefs, some of our government’s policies, and opinions on current events. Many nations throughout the world do not have this freedom, so they are constantly living in fear of their government and military.
Americans do not understand how lucky they are to be born in a country with a Constitution that is fair and equal for all people who reside in this nation. The founders could not see into the future, but they gave us the tools and instructions to take on any challenge that could come before us. The reason that our country has succeeded through all of its struggles and triumphs is because of the backbone of our Nation’s government, the Constitution.
The Living Constitution
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