"We the People of the United States, in order to form a more perfect union, establish justice, insure 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."

The preamble to our constitution clearly charges you and me, ordinary citizens, with the responsibility to "form a more perfect union." We collectively form our national, state and local governments to address problems beyond the capability of individuals or profit-motivated enterprise. We charge government, a body that is accountable to the people, to administer, protect and oversee shared resources, such as fresh air and clean water. Government provides transportation infrastructure, safe food and pharmaceuticals and education for all.

Amendments to our constitution explicitly recognize human and civil rights, acknowledging the dignity and values of people irrespective of race, religious beliefs, gender and socio-economic status. They illustrate how, over the years, we've grown as a nation to recognize that discrimination in any form leads to a loss of diversity and individuality that weakens our country. The remarkable flexibility of our constitution continues to provide opportunities to eliminate discrimination on the basis of age, disability and sexual orientation. The day will eventually come when universal health care is a right for all, young and old, rich and poor. The essence of our democratic society is to promote the general welfare.

On this Independence Day celebration, think about our personal responsibility to put aside self-interest and to work for the common good. The tool available to move America forward is our right to vote. Accept the challenge to "form a more perfect union," educate and inform yourself, and vote in the fall elections.

Our future depends upon it!

Kay Spangler,