Op-Ed: Jane Henegar on Constitution Day and creating a more perfect union

Hundreds rallying around Monument Circle. Thousands marching in the streets. Tens of thousands chanting at airports. Tens of millions stepping up to the ballot box. You may not always agree with their messages, their beliefs, or their choices. But, these Americans are embracing what has made our country great. Each in their own way, they are embracing our freedom and our obligation, under the United State Constitution, to Form a More Perfect Union.

Every year we at the ACLU of Indiana celebrate Constitution Day on September 17th.

We are a great country.

We have a genius Constitution that gives us the mechanisms with which to correct ourselves over and over again.

It gives us the values that guide us through that difficult process: Fairness, equality, and freedom.

It is a great system, though not perfect. And, it has held America together for over 200 years.

The ACLU has an important role to play in that system.

We help turn the words of the Constitution into action.

But the real work is with all of you, with all of us, with We the People

Over and over again, we must take to the street and to the ballot box to remind our leaders and our fellow citizens of the core values and dictates of the Constitution.

On the 230th anniversary of the signing of that miraculous, flawed and enduring document, its magic still isn't in the words; its magic is in the action it enables.

When a roomful of civil liberties activists—led by Roger Baldwin, Crystal Eastman, and Albert DeSilver—formed the ACLU in 1920, the U.S. Supreme Court had yet to uphold a single free speech claim. Now, with the work of the ACLU and the bravery of those with whom we have fought, the right to speak out, protest, and petition, without fear that government will shut us up because of the content of our speech, is baked into our American bones. Our union has made progress but isn't perfect yet.

In 1787, the founders of our country penned a document that became the bedrock of our democracy. But it has required attention, revision, care and growth. At its inception, the Constitution left out people of color, women, immigrants, LGBTQ people, the disabled, and others from its pages and protections. But slowly, first with ten Amendments, aka the Bill of Rights, and then more, the U.S. Constitution has changed the world's understanding of the freedoms and liberties government must cede to We the People. Included in this genius document is the exclusive power of our courts to interpret and apply the Constitution. Still, collectively, we haven't always gotten it right. We aren't perfect yet.

The ACLU has held every administration accountable to letter of the Constitution. And, we will hold this administration accountable too. The ACLU will fight for the fairness due immigrants. We will fight efforts to take away the rights of women to control their own reproductive health care. We will fight for full protections against racial discrimination, against discrimination on the basis sexual orientation, gender identity, or religion. We will fight to protect each American's vote and voice. We will fight because fairness, freedom and equality are baked into our American bones.

So when we celebrate our Constitution, we celebrate more than the remarkable document signed at the Philadelphia Convention. We celebrate that as a nation, a state, and a city, We the People can speak truth to power and fight for what is right.

Together, we celebrate the pursuit of a More Perfect Union.

-Jane Henegar, Executive Director of the ACLU of Indiana 

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