Centennial Honors College

Western Illinois University Celebrates

U.S. Constitution Day | Monday, September 18, 2023

"The Value of Voting"

The Constitution—Its Fate Depends on Civic Leaders

“Our Constitution is in actual operation; everything appears to promise that it will last, but in this world nothing is certain but death and taxes.”

Benjamin Franklin (Letter to Jean-Baptiste LeRoy, November 13, 1789)

We must never forget that it is a Constitution we are expounding...intended to endure for ages to come, and consequently to be adapted to the various crises of human affairs.”

Chief Justice John Marshall (McCulloch v. Maryland, 4 Wheat 316, 1819)

"No society can make a perpetual constitution, or even a perpetual law. The earth belongs always to the living generation…”

Thomas Jefferson (Letter to James Madison, September 6, 1789)

“The Constitution of the United States was made not merely for the generation that then existed, but for posterity—unlimited, undefined, endless, perpetual posterity.”

Henry Clay (Speech to the U.S. Senate, January 29, 1850)

The Constitution of the United States is the oldest, written, nation-state constitution in force today. The Founders of this great document were firmly grounded in the liberal arts. They were well versed in classical republicanism, natural rights philosophy, and Judeo-Christian teachings. Their practical experiences, coupled with political necessity and the willingness to forge compromise, redounded in the creation of a workable, durable framework upon which our republic is built. The Constitution, while far from perfect, has proven remarkably resilient, weathering seemingly countless political and economic crises. But can this great document last? The United States continues to undergo rapid social, cultural, economic, environmental and technological change. We now live in an age of instant communication, nuclear weaponry, global terrorism, and an insatiable world demand for energy. Our greatest challenges may lie ahead. Whether this unique Constitution and the government it has spawned can survive these challenges will depend in large measure upon civic leaders—people of vision and principles, educated in the liberal arts, skilled in politics, who understand the necessity of allocating scarce resources and balancing competing interests.

Dr. Rick Hardy