Monday, December 13, 2010

Getting Specific

One of my favorite stories about Oklahoma history involves the Oklahoma Constitutional Convention which met in Guthrie and the development of the preamble to the Oklahoma Constitution.

You may recall that the preamble reads as follows: “Invoking the guidance of Almighty God, in order to secure and perpetuate the blessing of liberty; to secure just and rightful government; to promote our mutual welfare and happiness, we, the people of the State of Oklahoma, do ordain and establish this Constitution.”

The initial drafting of the preamble was assigned to a committee of the convention. That committee created a first draft which initially referred to God only as “the Supreme Ruler of the Universe."

The draft was met with opposition and the members of the committee were asked if their mothers had taught them to pray to “the Supreme Ruler of the Universe.”

The chair of the convention strongly insisted that the delegates could not leave “God” out of the constitution and the next day he introduced a substitute which included the words “Almighty God” -- which we use as our constitutional preamble to this day.

The founders of our state wanted very specifically to acknowledge the existence of God and our need for His guidance.

This specificity was also reflected in our nation’s Declaration of Independence when our founding fathers declared that our rights of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness come from our Creator and it is the responsibility of government to preserve these rights. By acknowledging God’s existence and attributing our unalienable rights to His providence, our founding fathers were memorializing an important definition of the true purpose of government which we acknowledge to this day.

I was reminded of this story after a recent meeting of Republican legislators where the attendees were asked to develop a document declaring the principles by which Republican House members will govern during the upcoming year.

Republican legislators had a choice to make. They could have expressed support for traditional values by making a generic statement to this effect. This approach would provide values voters with the comfort of a token gesture -- and is all too often the "safe" approach to take because it provides acknowledgment of important principles while not running the risk of offending those who are embarrassed by the faith-based principles with which Oklahoma has been so identified.

However, rather than providing this level of token support, Republican policy makers chose to amend their platform to include a much more specific statement which affirmed that we will support policies which defend Judeo-Christian values.

This action made the clear statement that we know this specific values framework is the basis for our legal system and we are not afraid of pointing to the importance of recognizing and preserving this values system.

This specificity was copied throughout the Republican Representatives’ policy document as the attendees took clear stands on a number of issues which are important to Oklahomans.

I certainly appreciated this, as all too often politicians are not courageous enough to take clear stands on the issues of today. Even if all voters do not agree on every one of these specific topics, I believe that citizens do appreciate when political leaders have the courage to take a clear stand and stop playing the tired political game of making token vague and general statements on issues of importance to Oklahomans.

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