Saturday, September 17, 2011

Constitution Day

Today is Constitution Day, on which Americans celebrate our founding document, the United States Constitution. I am something of a Constitution geek, having had the good fortune of being in undergraduate school in 1987 during the Constitution's bicentennial. I had a series of wonderful Constitutional Law classes taught by Dr. John Scheb, who graciously agreed to be my faculty advisor during my senior year. My undergraduate political science classes led me into law school and a career that I love. As a lawyer, for the most part, my interest in Constitutional Law is academic, though I did get a case dismissed once on the basis of sovereign immunity as an Assistant General Counsel in the Central Legal Office of the Department of Chidren's Services.

In celebration of Constitution Day, I will share two tales about Benjamin Franklin, who attended the Constitutional Convention in his home town of Philadelphia despite suffering gout so painful it rendered him unable to walk to the Convention. Instead, he was carried on a litter by prisoners.

At the end of the Constitutional Convention while speaking to fellow delegates, Franklin pointed out the President's chair, which has a sun on the back. He commented that artists struggle with distinguishing a rising sun from a setting sun, and that he had wondered throughout the Convention whether the sun on the President's chair was a rising or setting sun. As they watched other delegates signing the Constitution, Franklin said, "But now at length I have the happiness to know it is a rising and not a setting sun."

As he exited the building now known as Independence Hall, where the convention was held, a woman on the street asked him, "Well Doctor, what have we got -- a Republic or a Monarchy?" To which Franklin replied, "A Republic, if you can keep it."

And so we shall.