On this day in 1787, a small group of delegates met in Philadelphia on the last day of their Convention to sign the Constitution of the United States. For nearly four months leading up to this date, the 55 men deliberated over the contents of what is regarded as one of the most important documents ever written.
George Washington presided over the Constitutional Convention, which comprised other “Founding Fathers” such as James Madison, Benjamin Franklin, and Alexander Hamilton. Gouverneur Morris of Pennsylvania chaired the Constitution’s drafting committee, which also included Madison, Hamilton, William Samuel Johnson of Connecticut, and Rufus King of Massachusetts.
The document and the process were not without their detractors. Rhode Island refused to send delegates. A number of delegates refused to sign the final document including George Mason and Edmund Randolph of Virginia, and Elbridge Gerry of Massachusetts. Mason felt strongly that the Constitution include a “Bill of Rights,” which was not part of the original document that was submitted to the states for ratification. The Bill of Rights, which contained the first ten amendments to the Constitution, was later introduced in 1789 and ratified in 1791.
The Constitution prescribes how the federal government is to be organized, outlines the role and powers of each of the three branches, and defines the government’s relationship with states and its citizens.
It starts with a simple yet eloquent Preamble: “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.”
I marvel at the wisdom of the framers of the Constitution. It was not a perfect document; on the contrary. In its very creation, the Constitution contemplated a process by which it could be amended, and it has been 27 times.
Foresight, experience, perspective, and flexibility are key ingredients to any major endeavor. In order to accomplish great things, you need to develop a sound game plan with the input of other key stakeholders. You’ll also need to build in a process by which the plan can be modified if and when the need arises.
Your plan most likely will not need to support a nation, nor endure more than two centuries. But it will require your best thinking, and need to stand the test of time and the strain of events that will inevitably come your way.