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Constitution's Bicentennial

June 15, 1987

Thank you for publishing the outrageous essay on the Constitution by Gore Vidal, and the thoughtful essay by Leon F. Litwack (Opinion, June 7). Vidal must have a swollen tongue from poking it into his tough cheek. Litwack is suffering great pain as he condemns the way the Constitution bicentennial is celebrated.

The prodding of the outrageous Vidal and the thoughts of Litwack will have succeeded if more than a few Americans try to understand why the United States has survived 200 years as a constitutional republic in spite of its flaws--most of which have been corrected.

Vidal's call for a new constitution is, in his own words, "gorgeous nonsense." Who could we, the people, trust to write a new constitution? Where are the modern counterparts of George Washington, Benjamin Franklin, Alexander Hamilton, Edmund Randolph, George Wythe, George Mason, William Samuel Johnson, Roger Sherman, Oliver Ellsworth, and the scholarly politician, James Madison, who was the prime designer of the Constitution?

Even if the very wisest, public-spirited citizens from all 50 states did assemble to draft a new constitution, I doubt if the result would be much different, or any improvement on the document that was so vigorously debated, revised, rewritten and polished by the educated, sophisticated, pragmatic delegates to the Philadelphia convention in 1787.

Litwack's point that we should recall and honor the critics, and dissenters while we celebrate the bicentennial is well taken. It is the dissenters who have brought about, and will continue to bring about necessary reforms of the Constitution.

The United States has survived wars with other nations, a tragic, bloody civil war, depressions, corruption, incompetence, and abuses of power. Common sense and faith in our capacity to govern ourselves has so far carried us safely through troubled times.

I am sure that most Americans want our Constitution to reflect the ideals eloquently expressed by Thomas Jefferson in the Declaration of Independence: "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. That to secure these rights, governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed."

I am also sure that most Americans believe that the purposes of government, so clearly written by Gouverneur Morris, are as realistic today as they were in 1787: "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."

As long as there is mutual trust between the governed and the governing, we, the people, can move forward with our grand experiment--representative self-government. It's up to us.

CLARA LINK

Pasadena

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