My ancestors were brought to America in chains more than 150 years ago, robbed of human dignity. Now I stand here in the greatest nation — my nation — the world has ever known, where I have pursued my own American dream.
Our country has a long and complicated relationship with race, but we have now come an extraordinary distance. My story could not be told in any other country, because it’s only here in America that I have been gifted the blessings of liberty endowed by the U.S. Constitution.
That’s why I find myself shaking my head at people like Ezra Levin, co-director of a progressive activist group called “Indivisible.” His organization spent Constitution Day denouncing the document as racist and attacking the people who love it. He used social media to reopen old wounds and pit Americans against each other based on our differences.
Kind of ironic for a group called “Indivisible,” don’t you think?
Mr. Levin is missing the point. Americans fought a long and bloody war to make sure the rights outlined in the Constitution would apply to everyone. They did not fight a war to abolish the Constitution – they fought a war to broaden its reach to all people. A century later, the Civil Rights Movement continued the march toward equal treatment under the law.
During that time, the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. never gave up on the Constitution. In the historic 1963 “I Have a Dream” speech, King told the crowd, “When the architects of our republic wrote the magnificent words of the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence, they were signing a promissory note to which every American was to fall heir. This note was a promise that all men, yes, black men as well as white men, would be guaranteed the unalienable rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. It is obvious today that America has defaulted on this promissory note insofar as her citizens of color are concerned … But we refuse to believe that the bank of justice is bankrupt.”
King knew the framework of the Constitution was sound, even if its application was flawed. Like our Founders, he wanted to use the document to protect the minority from the tyranny of the majority — whether it be a political party, race, ethnicity or just a single individual. He knew the document was more than a framework. It was a promise that could be used to inspire and encourage America to live up to its own ideals.
Perhaps it was a lesson learned from the writings of abolitionist Frederick Douglass, who had famously changed his view of the Constitution throughout his lifetime. After escaping slavery, Douglass was a loud critic of the document. It was through his continued education he realized the Constitution was a powerful tool to promote equality for all.
The road to equality has been a long one. But I challenge you to find a single nation anywhere in the world that has gone farther than the United States to protect the rights of all individuals.
The promises made in our Constitution are the reason the United States endures as a beacon of hope and freedom for those around the world. We are the greatest success story the world has ever known. We are constantly aspiring to be a better nation today than we were the day before. Though we may disagree over policies and politics, we must always stand united around this promise.