“We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure 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.”
Every American who graduated elementary school memorized these words, and for good reason. This sentence is the very foundation of our country. It represents the ideals, hopes, and promises that our young nation was founded on.
Today as we observe one of the hallmarks of our democracy, we’re reminded of our own history and the legacy of the presidential office and our nation. Our country’s history may be brief in the grand scheme of things, but it is one that is steeped in tradition and patriotism. And as our new president spoke to our country for the first time as Commander in Chief, one particular sentiment stood out to me…
“To form a more perfect Union.”
This is a very particular phrase. It owns up to something that I think our country with all of its patriotism and national pride, can overlook at times—we are not a perfect nation.
Excuse me while I put on my grammar nerd hat for a moment: It’s grammatically and physically impossible to be more than perfect. Therefore this statement that opens the defining document of our United States isn’t saying that we should strive to be more than perfect, but for perfection. Ergo, we are not and will not ever be perfect.
America has and always will (I think) see ourselves as a beacon of democracy, and I’m not saying that we shouldn’t. Where the danger lies is seeing ourselves as the rule.It’s not about being perfect, it’s about striving for perfection, and we can’t do that with a mentality that pits “us” vs. “them.” When we no longer believe we can learn from others, who may very well be smarter than us, that’s when we’ll stop moving towards that “more perfect Union.”
While some of the nation celebrates our new president, many today are fearful of what lies ahead, and no matter which side of that sentiment you fall on, this is an incredibly sobering moment for all Americans. The only way we’ll come out of this united is by being respectful of those differing opinions and truly listening.
It’s okay to question, it’s okay to disagree, open dialogue is a tenet of our country. But when you ask “Why?” mean it, and listen to the answer.