“We the People…” #SOL22

We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.

Preamble to the Constitution of the United States of America

What does freedom mean to you?

I’ll return to that question later.

My first competitive oratory, a form of persuasive speaking, centered on the preamble to the U.S. Constitution. As a naive high school junior in the 1970s; during those high-inflation days; long before the Americans with Disability Act; as I juggled school, my father’s illness, and feelings of displacement and uncertainty; at the height of the OPEC oil embargo; and in the wake of the Watergate scandal and looking to our nation’s bicentennial celebration, I channelled my conviction our nation needed to do more to uphold its stated ideals in a speech.

Each major part of the preamble served as a point in my speech. I didn’t win anything with that speech, but I did learn to think about our stated ideals and our nation’s claimed purpose.

Last week I subbed in sophomore English at a local high school.The students worked on essays focused on the question,

What does freedom mean to you?

Students had several sources they could reference in their essays: an FDR speech, JFK’s inaugural address, and To Kill a Mockingbird. Those in the honors sections could also reference Warriors Don’t Cry or The Help. I’ve real all three books and have taught TKaM and WDC. I reread both the FDR and JFK speeches from the textbook so I could assist students with their essays.

As I read Kennedy’s inaugural address, I noticed a theme, one I have not heard or considered in a long time, a theme antithetical of many in our divided nation. More than any other ideal, Kennedy focuses on giving and service to those who have less, both domestic and foreign:

 If a free society cannot help the many who are poor, it cannot save the few who are rich.

John F. Kennedy

Soon after his inauguration, Kennedy established The Peace Corp. Although a man born into wealth, Kennedy pledged to help Latin American countries, and others. He didn’t vilify immigrants. He didn’t brag about his riches or his largesse. He called on citizens to ask ourselves what we could do.

Instead of claiming specific freedoms, such as those named in the 1AC and 2AC, Kennedy extrapolates ways of being in the world and puts them into words that serve as a call to action, an exemplifying of what it means to live free in a free country.

Reflecting the idea of domestic tranquility, Kennedy spoke of civility in our foreign relations.

Reflecting the idea of general welfare, Kennedy spoke of security for the poor.

Reflecting on the Cold War and new threats to both world peace and individual security, Kennedy spoke of the struggle against the common enemies of man: tyranny, poverty, disease and war itself, ideals inherent both in the preamble and in the Constitution itself.

When did we lose our unified commitment to

form a more perfect union?

When did we stop caring about insuring

domestic tranquility?

Why do many care more about what they get instead of doing what they can to

promote the general welfare?

How can we find our way to becoming the nation that fancies itself a shining City of a Hill and actually

secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity?

This election day I am nervous and afraid. Have we so lost our way that we can no longer keep this 246 year old democracy?

Tomorrow we will learn the choice and the fate of

We the People.

Tomorrow we will know the answer to the national question

What does freedom mean to you?

*Today I invite you to share an answer to this question of freedom in the comments. Thanks for being here, and don’t forget to vote. Democracy is on the ballot.

8 thoughts on ““We the People…” #SOL22”

  1. Powerful and intensely thought-provoking. Glenda, we’re bringing in Elia Moreno to our district on December 1. I’m Zooming with her this morning to talk about the table envelope statements that community members and students will discuss. That JFK quote is a definite – – that’ll be there for sure. I want students to read this entire blog. You spotlight the essence of what we have lost sight of, all that our country once stood for. I’m with you, waiting….waiting….waiting for the outcomes.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. What a great time to post your story. It got me thinking about the Preamble to the Constitution, so I used your idea this morning on a f/b post. I ‘do’ worry about our country-so many things frustrate me and yes, I’ll be waiting also…to see the outcome. Thank you! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I love the form you created for this post. I’ve often wondered how our nation may have been different if Kennedy had lived. Was his assassination a turning point? A turning away from our core values?

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I don’t think Kennedy’s assassination was a turning away from our. ore values. The country never has really embraced those stated values for all, and Johnson did usher the Civil Rights act through. I think Reagan began the turning away. He’s the one who put the idea of individualism i. hyperdrive during the late 20th century. That *me* focus rejects the *we*.

      Liked by 2 people

  4. What a thought-provoking post, Glenda! Your questions are exquisite.
    Freedom means that as an individual I do have some rights but that the greater needs of the “we the people” come before the “I” and that I absolutely have no right and should not ever trample on the freedom of others. I think there is a song titled “Freedom is Not Free” – I think I will look it up!

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Love your reflections and questions here…I did not have the strength to approach our national issues today, though they are front and center on my mind. (Vote, people! Please, vote!!) Honestly, to me, freedom is simply living into this idea of “We the people” – WE. THE. PEOPLE. It’s ALL of us. No matter who we are. Are we including and caring for EVERYONE in this great nation of ours? WE THE PEOPLE. Thanks, Glenda!

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Reading this the day after election day. We didn’t quite turn away from these values, but I can’t say we turned towards them, either. I really appreciate the way you frame this post and all the questions it brings up. I’ve been listening to a lot of Ezra Klein’s podcast lately, and I feel like you’re bringing up many of the same questions. As I reflect, I find myself thinking that the first word of the preamble is “We”. WE. Maybe we could start there…

    Liked by 1 person

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