The Almost Right Word

“The difference between the almost right word and the right word is really a large matter–it’s the difference between the lightning bug and the lightning.” ~ Mark Twain, Letter to George Bainton, 10/15/1888

So the reading of the Constitution was interesting, as much for what they left out as for the fact that they read it at all. If you didn’t have a chance to hear the proceedings, the House GOP read the Constitution-as-amended, instead of the Constitution and the Amendments, in toto.

The Constitution is a remarkable document, as much for its specificity as for its vagueness. It is an inspirational and organic piece of literature that provides a template for charting the future of our Great Nation while serving as a link to our past. While the dreams of the future are often sweeter than the history of the past, my view is that the Constitution, as well as other pieces of classical literature, are a national treasure not to be edited.

The Constitution, of course, can and must be amended with the march of time. Things change. Consciousness evolves. And so, too, must the framework of governance. That said, we amend it, we don’t edit it.

“The United States Constitution has proved itself the most marvelously elastic compilation of rules of government ever written.” ~ Franklin D. Roosevelt

5 thoughts on “The Almost Right Word

  1. Colin

    It is important not to forget what has come before, so that
    we don’t repeat our mistakes in the future. If we forget the
    changes we have made to this amazing document, we will also forget
    why we made the changes. We can’t let political correctness get in
    the way of the truth being heard.


  2. Kai

    Thanks for this excellent perspective. I shared this with
    fellow faculty and brought it up in class today. Great points for a
    generative analysis!


  3. Mitch Webb

    To edit vs. amend is an important distinction to make.
    Amendments can rightly reflect the maturation of the times, as you
    say, but to edit the Constitution seems to have the potential of
    erasing the original spirit of the incredible people and times that
    defined the very spirit of our great nation. It seems an incorrect
    template to work from if they did not consider the original
    document. Fortunately we have it easily at our fingertips via the
    Internet, and I am looking forward to reading it for myself. It is
    vital to keep in touch with that originating spirit!


  4. Lady Leo

    There is a lot of editing going on right now. Mark Twain’s
    books are being edited and republished as we speak. Supposedly not
    to offend the young people reading it. If that is the case we
    should look at their music first. From what I’m reading, the case
    is being made for trying to revise history and we’ve seen that
    before with wars etc. The fact is as was discussed yesterday.
    People’s views change as they acquire more information or through
    experience. I have never felt Mark Twain was a racist on the
    contrary I thought he was seeking to convey accurately the events
    and attitudes held by those in the era he was writing about. If the
    past is too painful we should make sure we don’t repeat it.
    Revising history won’t change the future but looking at what didn’t
    “hit the mark” and repenting for it will surely change it. Thought
    provoking post, thanks.


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