President's Blog: The Constitution’s Promise

Jan. 6, 2021

Like all of you, I am horrified by the lawless violence in the United States Capitol today.  I am saddened and concerned for our country, and I am embarrassed by how America today appeared to the world.

Beginning when I was an undergraduate here, I have devoted much of my life to studying our Constitution.  I have always regarded the Constitution as, among other things, a framework for a government of laws.  It is a government made, as Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes said, “for people of fundamentally differing views.”

The Constitution permits us to address disagreements peacefully as we strive together for justice, prosperity, and a better future.  It permits us to do so, however, only if we, the people of this country, have the strength and commitment to make real the Constitution’s promise. 

Despite our many imperfections, generations of Americans have embraced that responsibility.  We have taken justifiable pride in the regular, peaceful transitions of power, which have occurred even after close and bitterly contested elections.  We have celebrated the willingness of losing candidates to acknowledge and accept the results of the democratic process.

Many of us also took those peaceful transitions for granted.  After today, it is clear that we can no longer do so.  We must now actively cultivate what once seemed inevitable.  We must rededicate ourselves to supporting and enacting the basic practices and values upon which our democracy and freedom depend.

There is no place in a democracy for what transpired today in Washington.  Such lawless behavior is unacceptable and weakens our country.  Every leader has a responsibility to oppose it and never to stoke or encourage it.

I am saddened by what we saw today, but I am also confident that Americans can and will rise together to meet the challenges that the Constitution imposes upon us:  to renew our commitment to the rule of law and to peaceful disagreement; to push always for justice, equality, liberty, and the ideals of a free nation; to respect one another; to restore civic trust; and to redress this nation’s failures and build upon its achievements as we endeavor to become a more perfect Union. 

I hope and believe that we will prove to ourselves and the world that this country is the America we want it to be.  I expect that all of us, in the Princeton community and throughout our country, will seek out opportunities and occasions in the days, weeks, and years ahead to come together on behalf of those ideals.  We all have a role to play.

For tonight, I hope that all of you are remaining healthy, ​safe, and well, and that you are focused on the friendships, connections, and values that enable us to persist forward amidst the multiple crises of this turbulent year.