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A Message from the Attorney General on Constitution Day

September 17, 2012

The following post appears courtesy of Attorney General Eric Holder.

In the summer of 1787, delegates from every corner of our new country – united by common purpose and an unrelenting resolve – gathered in Philadelphia to draft a legal document that would establish the framework for a revolutionary system of government.  After four short months of wide-ranging discussion, fierce debate, and hard-fought compromise – 225 years ago today – they signed the United States Constitution, setting the great American experiment in motion and codifying our nation’s most enduring ideals: of security, opportunity, liberty, and justice.

Since that moment, these fundamental values have remained our country’s greatest assets.  They have inspired generations of Americans to aim higher, to dream bigger, and to advance the ongoing work of building a more perfect Union.  They have established our nation as a shining example of strength – and a beacon of justice and hope – for all the world.  And even – or perhaps especially – today, in the face of global challenges and evolving threats that would have been inconceivable to those who drafted our Constitution, this extraordinary document continues to serve not only as a touchstone for our history, but a guidepost for our future progress.

As President Obama reminded us in 2009 – in a speech at the National Archives, just steps from the Constitution itself – our founding document “has endured through secession and civil rights, through World War and Cold War, because it provides a foundation of principles that can be applied pragmatically – it provides a compass that can help us find our way.”

Over the years, this steadfast compass has driven us to amend and improve upon our Constitution in an effort to expand the meaning of liberty and to guarantee America’s promise of limitless possibility for every citizen – regardless of race, gender, or creed.  It has driven more than two centuries of remarkable, once-unimaginable progress in the long and ongoing struggle for equal rights, equal opportunity, and equal justice for all.  And today, as we continue – with fidelity to both the letter and spirit of this extraordinary document – to realize the full promise of our great nation in the life of every citizen, it’s clear that – despite the strides that have been made over the last 225 years – we have more to do, and further to travel.

As Attorney General, and as a lifelong public servant, advancing this work remains my top priority and solemn obligation.  I’m proud to report that the Justice Department’s commitment to affirming and defending our Constitution – and to aggressively and fairly enforcing our laws – has never been stronger.  And our approach in protecting the American people from national security threats, reducing and preventing violent crime, eradicating financial and health care fraud, overcoming persistent disparities, enforcing essential civil rights protections, and safeguarding the most vulnerable among us has, quite simply, never been more effective.

In particular, through the Department’s Access to Justice Initiative, we are helping to fulfill the promise of equal justice under law by working to ensure that our justice system can efficiently deliver outcomes that are fair and accessible to all, irrespective of wealth or status.  Today, in the interest of building on this important work – and in honor of Constitution Day – the Justice Department will be hosting a lecture for employees, presented by Dean Phoebe Haddon from the University of Maryland School of Law, that will focus on equal access to justice in the 21st century, and explore new methods for eliminating barriers that prevent people from exercising their fundamental rights.

As we take new ownership of this work – and as we pause, on this annual observance, to reflect upon the sacred, uniquely American values that inspired the document we ratified exactly 225 years ago – let us also recommit ourselves to their faithful implementation.  Let us rededicate ourselves to the work of advancing America’s ongoing pursuit of a more perfect Union.  And let us seize this opportunity to reaffirm our determination to build a future rooted in freedom, opportunity, and justice for all.

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Updated April 7, 2017