On a hot August day in Lubbock, Texas, with my mother, grandmother and future wife present, I took the oath of commissioning to become a second lieutenant in the U.S. Air Force.
On that day, I swore "that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic."
At the time, I knew who the foreign enemies were, and I devoted over nine years of my life to defending my nation and its way of life from the Soviet Union, the Warsaw Pact, and rogue nations in the Middle East like Libya and Iraq.
I presumed the only domestic enemies of the Constitution were radicals and extremists who were well outside the mainstream of American thought.
Over time, however, I came to understand that anyone who sought to advance the power of government over the individual was an enemy of the Constitution.
Whenever you hear someone declare the Constitution outdated or inflexible, it is usually because it restricts them from using government as an instrument to impose their will on the people. Winston Churchill once said, "The rigidity of the Constitution of the United States is the shield of the common man."
In a 2001 radio interview, Barack Obama called the Constitution "a charter of negative liberties [that] says what the states can’t do to you. Says what the Federal government can’t do to you, but it doesn’t say what the Federal government or State government must do on your behalf."
In fact, the Constitution says exactly what government is permitted to do on our behalf. Supreme Court Justice William O. Douglas declared, “The Constitution is not neutral. It was designed to take the government off the backs of people.” President Andrew Johnson said:
“Outside of the Constitution we have no legal authority more than private citizens, and within it we have only so much as that instrument gives us. This broad principle limits all our functions and applies to all subjects.”
Obama's problem with the Constitution is that it has no provisions for what he described in the interview as "redistributive change." - In other words, it doesn't give government permission to take your earnings or your possessions and give them to others in the name of social or economic "justice."
Benjamin Franklin said, “The U. S. Constitution doesn't guarantee happiness, only the pursuit of it. You have to catch up with it yourself.” Where is the justice in forcibly taking from one and giving to another, regardless of the reason?
President Franklin Roosevelt shared Obama's disdain for the Constitution because the Supreme Court of his day blocked many of his New Deal reforms as unconstitutional. He even created a new freedom out of whole cloth, "freedom from want," to justify his expansion of government power over the citizen.
Author and libertarian philosopher G. Stolyarov II wrote:
"...Any claim to 'positive economic rights' of the sort Roosevelt advocates amounts to positive intervention with the liberties of some men so as to provide the goods and services which are forcibly redistributed to others under the pretext that those others have a 'right' to such goods and services."
No statement better sums up the intentions of the modern liberal movement and their political arm, the Democratic Party.
The Declaration of Independence established America's vision of a nation where all men are created equal and endowed by God with the right to life, liberty and to possess the fruits of one's labors. The Constitution is the defender of that vision and the guarantor of our rights. Patrick Henry, who famously declared "give me liberty or give me death," said:
"The Constitution is not an instrument for the government to restrain the people, it is an instrument for the people to restrain the government - lest it come to dominate our lives and interests."
American statesman Henry Clay made it clear that “The Constitution of the United States was made not merely for the generation that then existed, but for posterity- unlimited, undefined, endless, perpetual posterity.” Supreme Court justice Hugo Black said “Our Constitution was not written in the sands to be washed away by each wave of new judges blown in by each successive political wind.”
Do not let stand the contention that the Constitution is somehow no longer applicable to our times.
Another Supreme Court justice, Felix Frankfurter, gave us wisdom that those who seek to use the courts as an end-run around the checks and balances provided by federalism and the separation of powers would do well to heed:
As a member of this court I am not justified in writing my private notions of policy into the Constitution, no matter how deeply I may cherish them or how mischievous I may deem their disregard.
Winston Churchill gave us the measures by which we can determine whether or not a person is a friend or foe when it comes to the Constitution:
"Does he value the State above the citizen, or the citizen above the State? Does a government exist for the individual, or do individuals exist for the government?"
It took the framers of the Constitution only six pages to establish the federal government; as historian Stephen Ambrose said, “The American Constitution is the greatest governing document, and at some 7,000 words, just about the shortest.”
Our elected officials complain that it’s unrealistic for us to expect them to read legislation of 1,000+ pages. If that’s too much to ask of them, perhaps the federal government has exceeded its authority under the Constitution and is doing much, much more than the framers intended in those six pages they ratified in 1787.
I hung up my uniform for the last time 17 years ago, and it sits in my closet as a reminder of my service to the nation I love. The oath I took, however, is as relevant to me today as it was in the summer of 1982 when I first raised my hand before man and God.
The framers gave us, in the words of Benjamin Franklin, “A republic – if you can keep it.” He didn’t speak those words to a politician, but to an ordinary citizen on the street. Government officials take an oath to uphold the Constitution, but the responsibility to hold them accountable to that oath is ours and ours alone. The duty of vigilance and defense falls to us.
Let’s recommit ourselves this Constitution Day to supporting and defending that timeless document against not just its enemies abroad, but also its enemies within. They are more numerous than you may imagine.