We, the people
« We, the people.»
- the most often quoted words of the preamble of the US Constitution.
- an historic and great symbol of America, which is still meaningfull for most American people, even 200 years after their writing.
Last year, president Obama began his race speech with these words :
"We the people, in order to form a more perfect union."
Two hundred andtwenty one years ago, in a hall that still stands across the street, a group of men gathered and, with these simple words, launched America's improbable experiment in democracy. Farmers and scholars; statesmen and patriots who had traveled across an ocean to escape tyranny and persecution finally made real their declaration of independence at a Philadelphia convention that lasted through the spring of1787.”
As you can see in listening to this, 200 years later, the words which expressed the foundation of America haven’t lost their symbolic power.
In this presentation, I will try to determine:
( Why those words are such a fundamental symbol for the USA, and what meanings can be linked to these words
( In which way president Obama used the words “we the People”, and in which way they arestill relevant today
I. We the people, kesako?
A. A great symbol for the US
When I was looking on the Net for informations about “we, the people”, I found that: power point.
Considering this, it’s not exagerated to say that this expression seems to have a particular importance for american people in the fields of democracy, freedom or human rights.
As you may know, the U.S.Constitution is recognized all around the world as a symbol of freedom and democracy, regardless what we think about american policy in the world.
Common wisdom considers this introduction to the Constitution (“we the people”) as the will of the Great Fathers to base the Constitution on the popular legitimation. In other words, it would mean that the government gets its power from the people, andthat the people is the source of every power.
This preamble establishes a direct relation between the government and the people, and not through the rules of the States.
According to this, an explanation to the question “why is this expression so famous?” is that it’s the perfect illustration of democratic principles. The US Constitution was inspired by the Lumières, and “we, the people” respondsto this inspiration.
B. Meanings bound to these words
- “we, the people”: popular sovereignty, promotion of the democracy, garanty of freedom...
= ideological interpretation. But there also are more pragmatical ones.
- It has also been interpreted as a way to avoid confrontation with american States, which were against a federal State (their ratification was no longernecessary)
← It can be said that the Preamble demonstrates that the federal government of the United States was not created as an agreement between the states. Instead, it was the product of "the People"
(( Federation and not Confederation)
- consequence: federal Government > States
The Court has also understood this language to mean that the sovereignty of the government under the U.S.Constitution is superior to that of the States.
- if “people” = citizens, way to exclude non-citizens from the political community (women, children, Indiens, black people...)
II. In which way the words “we the People” are still relevant today?
A. For Obama, according to his speech : a reference to the past and to historical continuity
Constitution = beyond the ages
( Obama:this Constitution is :
“a Constitution that had at is very core the ideal of equal citizenship under the law; a Constitution that promised its people liberty, and justice, and a union that could be and should be perfected over time.”
« a union that could be and should be perfected over time.” :
in permanent construction: it’s a living document
( Obama remembers us that claming great...
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