By Mary O’KEEFE
“We the People…” That begins one of the most important documents, if not the most important, in American history.
While many know the idea of the Constitution of the United States, many don’t know the text beyond the first three words. In the coming weeks, though, Rosemont Middle School students in the history classes of teachers Stacy Fox and Lorena Leininger will get to know not only what those important words are but also what they and the following words mean.
Constitution Day was Sept. 17 and on the Friday before Leo Zalyan spent the day going over the opening paragraph of the Constitution. He spoke to students about what the words were and why they were important.
Zalyan is an assistant at the Glendale City Council Clerk’s Office but was at Rosemont as a representative of the ACLU (American Civil Liberties Union). He asked the students to read the first paragraph of the Constitution and then to break down sections that set the foundation of the then new United States.
“To form a more perfect union,” students said in unison.
Zalyan explained that the meaning behind that phrase was to bring the new country together as one and to bring the colonies into one union.
The next section was “establish justice.”
Zalyan asked the students what rules they had to follow in school and, if they broke those rules, what would happen.
A student replied that they would be taken to the office.
“Everyone has some set of rules and [rules] need to be set in a society,” Zalyan said explaining that tenet held true in forming the United States.
“‘Insure domestic tranquility.’ What does that mean?” Zalyan asked.
“To keep the peace,” said a student.
“And to keep everyone safe,” added Zalyan.
“Provide for the common defense” was the next area of discussion. Zalyan spoke about the common or united military being established to keep the country safe.
“Promote the general welfare” which, Zalyan said, goes back to keeping the citizens of the United States safe.
“Secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity.”
“Everybody has natural rights,” said a student.
“Natural rights are life, liberty and happiness,” added another student.
“That [includes] freedom of speech and the right to assembly,” Zalyan said.
The class then spoke about the three branches of the government – Executive, Legislative and Judicial.
The classes will continue their discussions of the U.S. Constitution in the weeks to come.