Saturday, September 17, 2016

Constitutionalism, Solidarity, and Immigrant Heritage: Three Reasons to Celebrate Today!

Today is a triple holiday!

On this day in 1787 the delegates to the Constitutional convention signed the document that has provided the foundation to our political order. As much as we grumbled about contemporary politics, I think the US Constitution deserves recognition as one of the most stable systems of government the world has seen and the framework within which America has prospered in freedom and material plenty. (I would add, in passing, that Constitution Day is a sadly under-celebrated holiday in the US, though the University of Dallas always celebrates in style, with rousing singing of patriotic songs in all of their verses. Definitely worth attending.)

But a constitution, even a good one, is largely an empty vessel. It is the grammar, if you will, of politics, not the contents. Those contents are provided the people, parties, and policies that operate under that system of government. On 17 September 1980, the Solidarity labor union was established in Poland, under a constitutional arrangement far different from our own. But in spite of the Communist system within which it was forced to operate, Solidarity acted as a powerful force for good, reminding us to always pursue what is best, in spite of the odds or circumstances.

Finally, 17 September is also the birthday of Friedrich von Steuben, one of the foreign volunteers who aided the young republic. It is observed in a few localities as Von Steuben Day (complete with parades in New York, Chicago, and Philly). For all its exceptionalism - and America is indeed an exceptional place - our country owes a great debt to the hard work and diverse contributions of many waves of immigrants. Von Steuben Day is a reminder that our arms should continue to be open to those seeking to come to our country.