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We the People

The views expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of ASPA as an organization.

By Emily Costa
August 1, 2017

“We the People of the United States, in order to form a more perfect union, establish justice, ensure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general welfare and secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.” The Preamble to the United States Constitution encompasses all of our hopes and dreams in one sentence. It is both optimistic and patriotic. It is the cornerstone of our American belief system. While I am enamored by these carefully picked words, I am also gravely disappointed. Not only have I failed to promote these myself, but also our elected officials are failing too.

we the people

On Establishing Justice

Justice is defined as fairness or reasonableness. It’s no secret socio-economic status determines the quality of housing, education and food one will eat over a lifetime. The more nuanced discrepancies lay in the formulation of public policy and programs themselves. When those implementing policy come from a class separate from those being served, inequities are inevitable. For example, although the voting records of my state’s Senators and Congressmen are adequate, I cannot pretend that their fears are my fears. Simply put, the classes we belong to allow us different and unequal life expectations. To me, justice is a life spent without student loan debt. To a politician, justice may come in the form of a tax cut.

On Domestic Tranquility

After watching Philando Castile being shot to death by a police officer, I was furious. Domestic tranquility does not exist for all of us. When I read about the acquittal of police officers in similar situations, I was confused. Judges remain fixed on their positions regarding police and their right to administer lethal force. Similarly for juries, the power and prestige of wearing a uniform overrides the regularity with which these shootings occur. Innately though, there is a feeling of wrongdoing. In the past, new legal precedents have helped change the outcomes of future cases. Is there not now a lawyer or judge in this country willing use our legal system to take a stand against systemic violence?

On Common Defense

Like many poor graduate students, I work in a restaurant. Sometimes, late on a Saturday night, I talk to the dishwashers who’ve just ended their shift. They sit down with a Coca Cola and eat a cheeseburger. Although they worked twelve hours, they don’t complain, unlike me. When pressed, their stories all sound similar. Wife and kids abroad, they send pretty much all of their paycheck to them every week. They want them to come here but lawyer fees and “Trump” make this complicated and problematic. Common defense is not afforded to them. For now they live in small apartments, crowded with other family members and let their lives stay on hold. I feel culpable. I don’t want them out of this country but many do. I defend them because they are some of the hardest workers I’ve ever seen; they’ve given more to this country than they’ve ever taken.

On General Welfare

Although I’m a healthy adult and my general welfare is good, 2017 has been marked by “last chance” doctor’s appointments. I’ve visited a podiatrist, dermatologist, dentist, OBGYN, primary care physician, orthopedic and hopefully by years end an ear, nose and throat doctor. I have no underlying aliments. If Obamacare is repealed, I will lose coverage. In a century where medicine and health care can change the trajectory of a life in hours, an objection to health insurance is an objection to a citizen’s life. Yet, Senators and Congressmen with lifelong, taxpayer sponsored health coverage vow and fight to take this away from me.

 Secure the Blessing of Liberty

Finding new meaning in the words of our founders is difficult. In Danielle Allen’s 2014 book titled Our Declaration: A Reading of the Declaration of Independence in Defense of Equality, she references the founders, their words and their work in crafting the Declaration of Independence. “The goal for a colony…is “pulling down tyrannies, at a single exertion and erecting such new fabrics, as it thinks best calculated to promote its happiness.” When the founders wrote these words, they meant them for a privileged few. In hopes of a more perfect union, I am inspired to reinterpret them. I want to usurp power from our own tyrannies of today. To secure our own liberty, we must exert and erect our own fabrics of liberty by relying on each other. We must promote the happiness of our fellow citizens and immigrants, instead of ourselves. These acts inject power into the Constitution’s words and help build a country stronger than the foundation it sits upon.


Author: Emily Costa is a Master’s in Public Administration Student at Roger Williams University in Rhode Island. While pursuing an Undergraduate Degree from Rhode Island College in History, she became highly concerned with issues of social inequity and their intersection with Public Policy. Her greatest future aspiration is to receive a Doctorate Degree. [email protected]

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The American Society for Public Administration is the largest and most prominent professional association for public administration. It is dedicated to advancing the art, science, teaching and practice of public and non-profit administration.

4 Responses to We the People

  1. darrell moore Reply

    August 2, 2017 at 4:28 pm

    Regarding my previous post from yesterday, read the notorious Dred Scott v Sandford decision of 1857 if you think I’m just sharing an isolated opinion.

  2. Darrell Moore Reply

    August 1, 2017 at 3:28 pm

    Emily,

    I believe the single most paradoxical issue facing the founding fathers at the time of the ratification of the Constitution was the enslavement of multitudes of men, women and children of African descent and how it was a justifiable practice. Some were actual Africans because the slave trade was still legal during this time. Many of the signers were slave owners, which was the basis of the paradox. If real, pure liberty had actually been sought, slavery would have been abolished with the signing of this document. Unfortunately that wasn’t the case which has led to what I feel to be erroneous interpretations of the meaning of the Preamble and who was actually protected by these words.

    Somehow, man decided that he was the determinant in who is human or sub-human (if there is such a thing). If you come from this place, then you are human, but from that place, you are sub-human. So, “We the People” can only be a description for who is human, therefore worthy of pursuing liberty and having tranquility. Part of that tranquility is having the means to own things and properties. A sub-human doesn’t have the propensity to own things for attaining tranquility so from that perspective, sub-humans don’t have to seek it, because they don’t know have to use it, or enjoy it.

    I can ramble on about this, but I’ll stop here. These are simply my thoughts regarding the root cause of why these simple words “We the People…” are so difficult to follow. We’ve come a good ways since this time, but unfortunately, you still have some who believe strongly that those words only represent them and not everyone else. Maybe one day, it will all come together.

  3. Doug Reply

    August 1, 2017 at 3:13 pm

    Hmmm. Note that the preamble cites ‘common defense’ and ‘general welfare’ not the other way ’round. Its unfortunate that many millennials seem to think they are entitled to state sponsored programs that offer free college or free healthcare. That’s not the central government’s role. If you want to improve your status quo, what’s stopping you? You are also free to “reinterpret” the words of the Constitution and to bend it towards progressive ends, liberty and justice never meant to ensure equal outcomes – only opportunity. Think the US is tough, try starting a business south of the border. You’ll miss the ‘domestic tranquility’ back in the USA.

    • Emily Costa Reply

      August 9, 2017 at 9:17 am

      Thank you both for your responses. I hope you continue to read future publication of mine.

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