Who Needs a Constitution Anyway?
Commissioner Tommy Adkisson
May 9, 2002
Everyone, that's who!
Last Sunday I was the featured speaker at the Polish American Center Celebration of the 211th Anniversary of Poland's Constitution. On May 3, 1791, Poland became the second nation in the world and the first in Europe to adopt a constitution! This is a significant accomplishment in world history and we have people right here in our community reminding us with their celebration of the significance of having a constitution.
From ancient times to the present, humanity has witnessed attempts made by various rulers to subject the governed to either not-so-kindly practices or downright hostile treatment. The constitution is the written agreement or social contract between the governing and the governed within a nation that determines legally what is acceptable on a fundamental basis. Many of us remember the valiant efforts of certain Englishmen in the year 1215 to rein-in King John from a list of unacceptable or repugnant practices in England. This classic showdown at Runnymede between the governing and the governed is a mere reflection of the age-old challenge that dogs mankind in his attempts to govern society.
The late Will and Ariel Durant tell us in their classic work entitled "The Lessons of History" that over the 3,000-plus years of written history, that monarchies have been the most common form of government. On the other hand, democracies have been but hectic interludes between monarchies. I find this very interesting because it is at least somewhat of a commentary on humanity. Are we inclined to be "subjects" of some king? Are we not inherently capable of self-governance?
It has been said, "A nation in a state of civilization that expects to be both ignorant and free expects what never was and never shall be". Also of equal interest is the statement that "Education is the guardian genius of democracy". It is said too, that Benjamin Franklin stated in response to a young boy's query just after the 1787 U.S. Constitutional Convention adjournment as to whether we had a democracy or a monarchy: "A democracy, if you can keep it".
All of this serves to remind us that without education, we may not only not have a constitution, we may not have a democracy. The Polish Constitution Day Celebration serves as a civic lesson about governance. And so it is with this in mind that I say long live education so that we may have a very long lived democracy in this young country of a mere 226 years!