Preserve the Constitution, Now More Than Ever

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The Constitution of the United States of America has endured over two centuries. It remains the object of reverence for nearly all Americans and an object of admiration by peoples around the world. Unfortunately, the assault by 20th century liberal theorists and activist judges has seriously undermined respect for America’s core principles, denigrating some constitutional rights they disagree with and making up others.

Fortunately, there has been a renewed interest in the Constitution in recent years, as Americans seek to understand the founding principles and enduring truths that form the bedrock of our chosen form of self-government. Clearly, the future of liberty depends on America reclaiming its constitutional first principles.


In that spirit, The Heritage Foundation is hosting an extraordinary series of events as we do our part to Preserve the Constitution.  Heritage’s Preserve the Constitution Series will feature the nation’s most respected judges, legal scholars, and policy analysts as they discuss how to combat these attacks on the rule of law and the Constitution.

We began the Preserve the Constitution Series last Friday by taking a look at President Ronald Reagan, for whom the Constitution provided the foundation of his presidency and ultimately influenced his every decision. In our event, “A Constitutional President: Ronald Reagan and The Founding,” I was joined by Steve Hayward, Jim Miller, and Lee Edwards. We discussed how, from the first days of his presidency, Reagan was guided by the first principles of the American Founding, especially the idea of ordered liberty.

In the opening paragraphs of his first inaugural address in 1981 — much of which he personally drafted — President Reagan echoed the preamble of the Constitution, calling on “We the people” to do whatever needs to be done to “preserve this last and greatest bastion of freedom” — America. Eight years later, in his farewell address to the American people, the President said that the American Revolution was “the first revolution in the history of mankind that truly reversed the course of government, and with three little words, ‘We the people.'”

Those words should remain a guiding light for government today—particularly as our country continues its war against terrorists. To commemorate 9/11, and the role of the Constitution during wartime, join us tomorrow for a lively discussion between conservative legal scholar and former Bush Administration official John Yoo, and the former head of the ACLU, Nadine Strossen.  They will discuss a new book of collected essays by distinguished scholars, of which I was proud to take part.

Certainly, our Supreme Court plays a vital role in preserving the Constitution–particularly given the latest effort to expand the power of Congress with the passage of Obamacare. The Eleventh Circuit’s recent ruling striking down the individual mandate in Obamacare makes it almost certain that the Supreme Court will hear the constitutional challenge. Will the government be able to delay the final decision until after the 2012 election? And how will the Justices respond to the latest racial preference cases from the Fifth and Sixth Circuits: Will they overrule Grutter v. Bollinger or kick the can down the road for another 25 years? How will United v. Jones (the GPS tracking device case) and Florence v. Board of Freeholders (the prisoner strip search case) change Fourth Amendment protections? Will the High Court uphold the Arizona immigration law or strike it down?

As part of our series, we will address those questions in a preview of the next Supreme Court term on September 28 with former Solicitor General Paul Clement and others. Other events in the series include: “The Constitution and the Common Defense: Who Ensures America’s National Security?” on October 11, where I will be joined by former Attorneys’ General John Ashcroft and Michael Mukasey–the first event to feature three former Attorneys’ General; and on November 3, “Is ObamaCare Constitutional?” with Michael Carvin and David Rivkin, counsel for the National Federation of Independent Business and the states in the multi-state challenge to the new healthcare law.

Though the Constitution has endured for over 200 years, its enduring integrity cannot be taken for granted. In order to preserve the Constitution, Americans must be aware of the role it should play in restraining our government. It is our hope with our Preserve the Constitution series to educate the public about the Constitution and hopefully change America’s course by restoring the courts to their constitutional role: to protect individual liberty, property rights, and free enterprise — and to enforce the constitutional limits on government.

– Edwin Meese, III, served as the 75th Attorney General of the United States under President Ronald Reagan. He is the Ronald Reagan Distinguished Fellow in Public Policy and Chairman of the Center for Legal and Judicial Studies at The Heritage Foundation.