Happy Constitution Day!

(J. Scott Applewhite - Associated Press)
Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Today is Constitution Day, which marks the 221st anniversary of the signing of the U.S. Constitution. The document is basically the rule book for how the federal government should operate. Although it has changed over the years (those changes are called amendments), the words written by the country's earliest leaders, sometimes called the Framers, are still in effect today. Chief Justice of the United States John Roberts, an expert on the Constitution, answered some questions about it.

How can a document that was written at a time when people traveled by horseback still be relevant?

The Constitution is relevant today because the Framers who wrote it were planning a government they hoped would last beyond their own time. They wanted to promote justice and preserve freedom for future generations -- including yours! The Framers may not have thought about cars, DVDs or iPods, but they knew that every generation should be free and have a fair and just government.

What is the most important part of the Constitution?

The most important part of the Constitution is the way that all its parts work together. The Framers knew how bad it was to live under a powerful and unjust king, and so the Constitution split government power among the legislative, executive and judicial branches. That way no one of them could get too strong. That plan is more important than any one part.

What do you think is the coolest part of the Constitution that people do not really know about?

What could be cooler than the part about the Supreme Court? Under the Constitution, justices serve for life, so they can say what the law means without worrying that it might be unpopular. Because the Supreme Court is separate from the rest of the government, it can make sure the government follows the law, too. People may know that, but I'm not sure they know how rare and special it is.

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