September 17th is Constitution and Citizenship Day, a holiday that commemorates the signing of the United States Constitution and reminds us that our government puts the power of rule into the hands of the people.

If you’ve never done so, this is a great time to actually read the Constitution. It is only about 4,500 words long, and while some parts may be difficult to understand, simply recognizing the brevity of the document can teach us a lot. The U.S. Constitution, which established an entirely new system of government for our country, is far shorter than most individual pieces of legislation today, even those that deal with very straightforward issues.

One reason why the Constitution is so short is because the founders were emphatic about keeping most powers in the hands of the states. As James Madison wrote in the Federalist Papers, “The powers delegated by the proposed Constitution to the federal government are few and defined. Those which are to remain in the State governments are numerous and indefinite.”

Keeping power away from the federal government provided states with the opportunity, not only to be more responsive to the needs and desires of each state’s inhabitants, but also to experiment with different policies and learn from others’ mistakes and successes. That is the meaning behind the idea of states being 50 different entities inside one nation.

In light of Constitution Day, we should take time to talk with our kids about our nation’s history and our system of government. Teaching about the founding documents is a great place to start. Besides simply saying that we need to remain true to the Constitution, we must also make the case of why the document itself is significant.

The vision of our Founding Fathers paved the way for a country that has enjoyed the kind of productivity, prosperity, and liberty that had never before been seen in human history. It is up to us to defend and preserve it.

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