For a few months, representatives from the former original American colonies, now thirteen independent political entities, which had joined into a loose Confederation, met in a constitutional convention. The delegates, who represented twelve of the thirteen states, were having difficulty defining a framework of government, agreeable to all, that would unite them into one nation.
Finally, on September 17, 1787–two hundred twenty-eight years ago today, the delegates signed their approval of a written framework, commonly known as the U.S. Constitution, which they would bring back to their states for ratification.
On that momentous occasion, when all the delegates who were present had signed the document, heralding the close of the 1787 Constitutional Convention, Benjamin Franklin, octogenarian and esteemed delegate from Pennsylvania, made a confession.
During the months-long proceedings, fraught with serious conflicts and disagreements, whenever he looked at the nebulous sun-decoration (sun: rising? or setting?), painted on the chair on which sat George Washington, who presided over the Convention, Franklin had ambivalent feelings–he both hoped that the sun were rising, and feared that it might, after all, be setting.
In the wake of the signing, Franklin confidently asserted his assessment-conclusion, “… I have the happiness to know that it is a rising and not a setting Sun.”
Franklin was right. Two hundred twenty-eight years later, that one Nation formed under that Constitution still stands, still shines.
Thinking about Franklin’s admission about the ambiguity of the rising/setting sun reminded me a lot of my recent retirement. If the sun were a retirement logo, I admit that in the days preceding and following the big Retirement day, the sun felt setting.
Now, with the passing of days, the sun feels more rising.
No illusions, though, in the whole scheme of things, despite the fact that each day brings a new dawn, the day when the sun will rise and set for the last time is closer now, at the end of my career, than it was at its beginning.
Meanwhile, I thank God I live in and have retired in a country founded on our amazing Constitution. As a student, I was required to memorize its Preamble. Now, with more discretionary time, the least I can do in gratitude this day, it seems to me, is to remind myself of those blessed words–even saying them aloud.
Will you please join me? …Thank you!
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.
Those are beautiful words, aren’t they?