On the late warm evening of April 2006 a young teenager standing on the steps of the U.S. Capitol addressed his American counselor:
- So, it’s been some 130 years already. And these principles are still actual.
- Yes, they are. And They, probably, couldn’t have even imagined what a difference for all farther generations to come was made.
Holding an ‘antique’ authentic copy of the U.S. Constitution in my hands and recalling those words today – some six years later – I truly catch the meaning of that brief dialog…
While in the debates on adopting the Constitution of the United States, some feared that its original version had a potential of opening the way to tyranny by the central government: the wounds of the British violations of people’s rights during the Revolution were still fresh. Thus a true ‘bill of rights’ to state the immunities of ordinary citizens was advocated for. The events of September 25, 1789 showed that devoted citizens are capable of crafting perpetual legislature, proving that “We the People” – but not “They the government” or “They the big business” – are in charge of our fate and our future, and that the common citizens constitute the only true source of political power and will in any state – the established truth that is to be remembered and cherished by ordinary representatives of any country in the world, including Ukraine.
Ukrainian state has a long democratic tradition of its own (here, vivid examples of the Cossacks freedoms and the first European democratic constitution of hetman Pilip Orlick are worthy of mentioning). But, unfortunately, these and other developments were disturbed by numerous historic turmoils, outside influences and some people’s lust for profit and power, turning the history of Ukraine into a seemingly everlasting pursuit of independence.
Independent and sovereign Ukraine of the 21st century is a young state trying to secure a place for itself in the new system of international relations. But it is necessary to acknowledge that one’s international status is a result of domestic tranquility and citizens’ wellbeing as well as international situation. Thus, it is important for us to voluntarily (and truly) learn from the internal democratic experience of other international actors rather than randomly impose some achievements or become a simple object of ‘international lecruting’.
It is obvious that some basic rights – including but not limited to fair trial, adapted right of “pledging the Fifth” and the “right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects” – are to become inalienable in practice and reality, as well as in legislature. Moreover, the citizens of our country are to realize that ‘blowing the whistle’ when necessary is equally important: change comes through practical actions of the many in cases of rights violations, injustice and overexcessive corruption. In such a state of society the freedom of speech and “the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances” evolve into a specific form of a mandatory and – at the same time – voluntary duty backed by free press and government’s guarantees of freedom and security for all. On top of that, well-known efficient American principle of the melting pot should be reassessed to match the realities of contemporary Ukrainian life in the situation when tendencies towards growing nationalism (sometimes – aggressive) become evident.
“We the People…, in Order to…, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, …promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity”… These lines can serve as good guidelines for anybody willing to make a difference in his community and country. The path of any nation is unique – but some realities can become universal if shared. Thus, remembering the achievements of our ancestors and going by a more global international heritage we are capable of working together in order to promote a better future for ourselves and our world as a whole.
Author: Volodymyr Pavlov, Donetsk National University
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Competition is held by the Center for Political Studies (Donetsk, Ukraine), jointly with the portal “American Clubs – Ukraine”, and the Kyiv Alumni Resource Center (ARC). General partner of the competition: American Civil Liberties Union of Hawaii (Honolulu, USA). Partners of the competition: Institute of Professional Lobbying and Advocacy (IPLA) and Donetsk Regional Association of International Researchers (DAIR). More detailed information about the competition is available here.