Wednesday, April 18, 2007

The Preamble

Today’s brainwave comes from I know not where. It occurred to me that every tutor and many learners could benefit from an introduction or a reintroduction to the beginning of the U.S. Constitution. Why? Well, for one reason, some of our learners are working toward U.S. Citizenship, and knowledge of the constitution can only help. Some of the vocabulary is good to know for everyday life. The first three words make an extraordinary assertion about who wrote this document and whom it is for; even a beginning learner of English can understand them. Check it:

We the people of the United States, in order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, ensure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defense, 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 am aware that the preamble is not written in simple English, but the message is, at the heart of it, simple, namely: we create government for the purpose of meeting people’s needs for liberty and security for now and for the generations to come. For some of the largish words, you may want to come up with a simple English-to-English translation.

Justice—this translates directly in many languages. In Spanish, justicia.

Tranquility: you could just say “peace.”

Blessings: the good things in life

Liberty: freedom or libertad in Spanish

Posterity: the people who come after us—our children and grandchildren

Ordain and establish: mean approximately “to create and to approve.”

The preamble is the most inspiring sentence I know. It states the reason for having a constitution and gives six purposes that it is supposed to guarantee. At the bottom of this post I have put a link to a YouTube video which has the preamble sung to a very catchy tune from “Schoolhouse Rock.” Because of this tune I learned the preamble, oh, about 30 years ago and could not forget it if I tried. I hope you like it, too. Click here:

Go well, and please keep in touch.

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