Living Columns & Blogs

Birthday of the U.S. Constitution should mean something to us all

A Constitution 230 Celebration will be held Sunday at Grange Park.
A Constitution 230 Celebration will be held Sunday at Grange Park. Centre Daily Times, file

The strongest piece of paper in the world is also the foundation for the rights every citizen enjoys. Sunday is that piece of paper’s birthday.

▪ Have you ever held money, sent a letter by U.S. mail, found out the new total population of America every 10 years or thought of taking out a patent? All of these actions are prescribed in Article 1.

▪ Article 6 informs us that a person of any religion or no religion can be president of the United States.

▪ Are you a woman who voted in the 2016 presidential election? Or 18 and voted for the first time? These rights are found in the19th and 26th Amendments.

▪ Did you ever wonder why citizens have paid a federal income tax every April 15 since 1913? That’s in the 16th Amendment.

▪ Did you know that senators were elected by state legislatures for more than 100 years? Citizens have had the right to vote directly for their U.S. senator since 1913 — 17th Amendment.

▪ Can a president be removed for incapacitating health issues? Yes — the vice president and a majority of the cabinet can remove a president if incapacitated by simply signing a letter to that effect. That’s in the 25th Amendment, which passed in 1967.

Americans live in different states. We belong to different faiths or none. We are of different ethnic and racial groups. Only one thing connects all Americans: the U.S. Constitution. All presidents swear, as do all members of the U.S. military, to do one thing — preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States.

The father of the U.S. Constitution was James Madison. The Founding Fathers were not perfect, and therefore the Constitution you and I have lived with since birth was the second attempt at a constitution. The first U.S. Constitution was called the Articles of Confederation. After eight years, it was deemed a failure, and our current and second constitution was born on Sept. 17, 1787.

The purpose of any constitution is to establish legitimacy. A good constitution distributes power, limits power and allows for change — changes in the U.S. Constitution known as the 27 Amendments. It is a contract between the people and the government. (Yes, our form of government requires you and me to participate. If you do not like something, change the constitution with an amendment.) Our constitution sets up our structure of government, with three branches each able to check the other so no single branch gets too powerful.

We should be aware of what is not in the U.S. Constitution. The words “privacy,” “democracy,” “God,” “Jesus” and “Christian” do not appear in the U.S. Constitution.

For our nation to endure, citizens need to learn about this critically important document. Celebrate by going to the Constitution 230 Celebration at Grange Park in Centre Hall. There will be music, food, speakers and exhibits. Details are available at

OLLI at Penn State — open to adults who love to learn —is offering more than 140 courses this fall. Greg Ferro will lead an OLLI course on The U.S. Constitution and You. To receive a free catalog for the fall semester, call OLLI at Penn State at 867-4278 or visit

Greg Ferro teaches American history classes at retirement communities and resorts in North Carolina and throughout the Mid-Atlantic states.

If you go

What: Constitution 230 Celebration

When: 1-6 p.m. Sunday

Where: Grange Park, 169 Homan Lane, Centre Hall