The Preamble as a 6-Part Mission Statement? "All Together...!"
Every month I play piano and lead songs for a lively group of 40 senior adults who attend a daytime program at SAGE Eldercare, a nonprofit home healthcare agency in Summit, New Jersey. For the better part of an hour, these 74- to 101- year-olds listen to piano works by Chopin and Brahms and whole-heartedly sing "It's a Grand Old Flag," "Give My Regards to Broadway,” "I've been Workin' on the Railroad," and other favorites.
As with any group, they like to vary the program. Now, about midway through, we take a break from piano and singing to spend a few moments 'practicing,’—of all things—the Preamble to the Constitution.
"Who can name our founding documents?" is often my opener. "The Declaration of Independence and . . . the Constitution," several of them offer, if tentatively. "What are the first words of the Constitution," I ask. Always poised in the front row, Walter proudly asserts, "We the People!"
“And what are our six goals as a people and a country?" After a pause, slowly, through gestures, prompts, and more questions, we recollect the powerful, animating verbs that compel us to "ordain and establish" the Constitution:
The group may never recall all six verbs at once. But when reciting the words in unison, they appreciate the potent rhythm of the sequence, and the internal rhyme of "insure" and secure".
The graceful, logical pairing of each verb with its "object" makes for a vigorous call and response:
Form? A more perfect Union(!)
Insure? domestic Tranquility
Provide for? the common defense
Promote? the general Welfare
Secure? the Blessings of Liberty...
("[For] whom?") …[for] ourselves and our Posterity!
Sometimes we consider whether six goals are too many for one mission statement. But our attempts to prune the statement always fail. All six objectives are appreciated. All six are viewed as fundamental and appropriate: Unity; Justice; Tranquility, Defense, Welfare, Liberty.
To celebrate Constitution Day—September 17—here is the SAGE seniors' reading of the Preamble, with punctuation, numerals, and italics added:
We the People of the United States, in Order to:
1. form a more perfect Union,
2. establish Justice,
3. insure domestic Tranquility,
4. provide for the common defense,
5. promote the general Welfare, and
6. secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity,
do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.