"We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, 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."

The preamble to the U.S. Constitution is just 52 words long, but it embodies the essence of America and has set a pattern for 200 years of wise government and individual freedom unequaled anywhere else in the world.To remain strong, the Constitution needs a knowledgeable and informed public.

The Commission on the Bicentennial of the United States Constitution is in the midst of a four-year commemoration that began in September of 1987 and will run through December of 1991. It has sponsored activities geared to key events surrounding the Constitution beginning with a re-enactment of the document's signing by the Continental Congress in 1787 and will conclude with a celebration of the enactment of the Bill of Rights in 1791. The goal is to better educate the public about the Constitution and encourage schools, public groups, and individuals to take time to learn more about the foundation of our freedoms.

The Constitution of the United States sets forth this nation's basic laws. It establishes the form of the national government and defines the right and liberties of the American people. It also lists the aims of the government and the methods of achieving them.

The framers of the Constitution accepted as an unchallengeable maxim that the only way to avoid governmental tyranny is to put the legislative, executive, and judicial powers in separate departments.

It's hard to capture the genius of the U.S. Constitution in just a few words. Entire libraries could be filled with the books that have been written about it.

The British statesman William E. Gladstone summed up the reaction of many expert observers when he described the U.S. Constitution as "the most wonderful work ever struck off at a given time by the brain and purpose of man."

But even that glowing description does not do full justice to this divinely-inspired document, which has endured for two centuries.

May it last forever, not only as a protection to Americans but as a symbol to all the world that man was meant to be free and as a pattern for achieving and keeping that freedom.