The ability to recapture our core values resulting in constructive change is an essential skill that all sustainable community leaders should have. The United States of America is not a perfect nation, but it has demonstrated, through its democratic process, its ability to change over its short history of being a nation. The amendments to our Constitution were evidence of this power to change and to correct the course of our nation toward realizing our founding vision—“We hold these Truths to be self-evident, that all Men are created equal...”—in spite of resistance and power struggles.
The Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution is one of the post-Civil War amendments, and it includes the Due Process and Equal Protection Clauses, as well as Rights Guaranteed Privileges and Immunities of Citizenship. It was proposed on June 13, 1866 and ratified on July 9, 1868. The amendment states that all persons born in the United States are citizens, overturning a central holding of the portion of the Dred Scott Case (1857) decision that declared that African Americans were not and could not become citizens of the United States or enjoy any of the privileges and immunities of citizenship. The amendment requires the states to provide equal protection under the laws to all persons (not only to citizens) within their jurisdictions. The significance of the Fourteenth Amendment was exemplified when it was interpreted to prohibit racial segregation in public schools and other facilities in Brown v. Board of Education.
However in the second section of the amendment, which determined the number of U.S. Representatives that each state would be due in Congress, the use of the words "male citizens" marked the specific and intentional exclusion of women for the first time in the Constitution. Also in section 2, the counting of persons in each state excludes “Indian not taxed.” While this amendment was ratified as a response to support the status of former slaves, it also showed exclusion of another form. Subsequent changes to the Constitution, such as the 19th Amendment, ratified in 1920, and the later movementsto pass the Equal Rights Amendment, were efforts made to correct this blatant exclusion in the U.S. Constitution. Reading portions of this amendment should generate interesting dialogue.
Imagine how this amendment was formed, debated and voted upon in the House of Representatives and Senate of the United States. What knowledge and abilities are needed in order for a leader in Congress to assist the nation to move toward constructive change for a sustainable future? How might this reflection help you assess the candidates running for offices in the upcoming election?
The Fourteenth Amendment
Section. 1. All persons born or naturalized in the United States and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside. No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.
Section. 2. Representatives shall be apportioned among the several States according to their respective numbers, counting the whole number of persons in each State, excluding Indians not taxed. But when the right to vote at any election for the choice of electors for President and Vice President of the United States, Representatives in Congress, the Executive and Judicial officers of a State, or the members of the Legislature thereof, is denied to any of the male inhabitants of such State, being twenty-one years of age, and citizens of the United States, or in any way abridged, except for participation in rebellion, or other crime, the basis of representation therein shall be reduced in the proportion which the number of such male citizens shall bear to the whole number of male citizens twenty-one years of age in such State.
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Section. 5. The Congress shall have power to enforce, by appropriate legislation, the provisions of this article.
Reflection Questions for Proper 21(Year B)
7:1-6, 9-10, 9:20-22
Eric H. F. Law
For competent leadership in a diverse changing world
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