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Congressman Tom McClintock

Representing the 4th District of California

Protecting the Constitution - Roseville Veterans Day Commemoration

November 11, 2013

Protecting the Constitution

Roseville Veterans Day Commemoration

November 11, 2013

Remarks by Congressman Tom McClintock

The oath of the uniformed services, taken by every living veteran in this country, including each and every one that we honor today, is clear and to the point: “To preserve, protect and defend THE CONSTITUTION of the United States.” 

Think about that.  The oath is not to “preserve, protect and defend the United States of America.” It is not to “preserve, protect and defend the United States Government.”  The oath is specifically to “preserve, protect and defend THE CONSTITUTION of the United States.”

There’s a reason for that: it is because if we ever lose our Constitution, we will have already lost our country. 

It is not the country that our veterans defended.  We often talk about them defending our hearths and homes, our families and loved ones, our freedoms and way of life.  Those things – as precious as they are – are merely the fruits of the Constitution.  Without the Constitution and the liberty it protects, all these other things are merely flub-dubs and baubles. 

We honor our veterans for defending our Constitution – that is the only oath they took, plain and simple.   

It is the Constitution -- that simple document owned by “we, the people,” which animates the vision of governance promised in the Declaration of Independence – that established for all time a nation of laws and not of men -- a Republic in which each individual citizen has the freedom and the responsibility to make his or her own decisions, prosper according to his or her own enterprise, industry and talent.  THAT is what our veterans defended abroad – and THAT is what each of us must defend here at home.

The Constitution is the source of our prosperity and our moral and martial strength.  It is what makes America exceptional and what produced the happiest society and the most successful Republic in the recorded history of our species.  It is the Constitution that offers what Lincoln called, “the last best hope of mankind on earth.”

The veterans we honor today protected our Constitution – and all the fruit it bears -- from every threat from abroad that it has faced, as did the eight generations of veterans who came before them.  In so doing, they sacrificed irreplaceable years of their youth, postponed their careers, endured long separations from loved ones. Many sustained wounds.  Many lost their lives.  ALL to preserve, protect and defend the CONSTITUTION of the United States.

The question all of us must ask ourselves as we honor our veterans today is, how worthy have each of us been as defenders of that same Constitution here at home? 

The American founders often referred to a “Liberty Tree.”  Our generation didn’t plant that tree – we didn’t grow that tree – we were simply handed it by those who came before us.  Our veterans defended it from every threat from abroad.  How well have we citizens defended it from every threat from within?

We accepted it and all its blessings – with the solemn obligation to care for it, to protect it, to nurture it – so that it can continue to bear the fruit of liberty for the generations who follow ours.

As we leave here today, let us join our veterans and commit ourselves to the same responsibility they accepted so honorably when they took the serviceman’s oath and for which we honor them here today.  Let us highly resolve not to rest until we have delivered to our sons and daughters a Liberty Tree that is just as healthy, a Constitution that is just as strong; and a nation that is just as free as those that our fathers and mothers gave to us.

As Daniel Webster said so long ago: “Hold fast, my friends, to the Constitution and to the Republic for which it stands -- for miracles do not cluster, and what has happened once in 6,000 years may not happen again.  Hold fast to the Constitution, for if the American Republic should ever fail, there will be chaos throughout the world.”