Our constitution and our commitment
The ancient city of Athens in Greece was once recognized as the great and unique city of the world. Edgar Allan Poe wrote of “the glory that was Greece, And the grandeur that was Rome”. It was not only a seat of government but of learning and commerce, of art and science. Each young man of Athens, when he reached the age of eighteen, took this oath:
We will never bring disgrace on this our City by an act of dishonesty or cowardice.
We will fight for the ideals and sacred things of the City, both alone and with many.
We will revere and obey the City’s laws, and will do our best to incite a like reverence and respect in those above us who are prone to annul them or set them at naught.
We will strive increasingly to quicken the public sense of civic duty.
Thus, in all these ways we will transmit this City, not lessened, but greater and more beautiful than it was transmitted to us. [From the End of the Peloponnesian War to the Battle of Ipsus (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1985), pp. 133–35 (109A)]
That solemn commitment and its subsequent expression in the lives of the young men of Athens became the foundation of principle and behaviour that made Athens the cultural capital of the world.
Our President has just raised his hands holding his religious symbol to swear an oath, the justices of our Supreme Court, our legislators, and public officers of many levels all raise their arms to the square and solemnly pledge to uphold the laws of the land and prosecute their responsibilities with fidelity and honor.
The marriage ceremony both traditional and religious, is a covenant made in solemnity. All of us in this country who are citizens of this nation promise on our honour in our pledge to be faithful and loyal to Ghana our Motherland. Jehovah of old made a covenant with Abraham and his posterity that he would be their God and they would be his people.
Constitutions, covenants and commitments are as old as mankind and as contemporary as marriage. I am going to give two general elements that in imbedded in our constitution to which we must strive to commit.
1. The simple word honesty.
Walter Lippmann once said:
You don’t have to preach honesty to men with a creative purpose. Let a human being throw the energies of his soul into the making of something, and the instinct of workmanship will take care of his honesty.
. . . A genuine craftsman will not adulterate his product. The reason isn’t because duty says he shouldn’t, but because passion says he couldn’t. [Elbert Hubbard’s Scrap Book (New York: Wm. H. Wise & Co., 1923), p. 62]
It is interesting to me to note that five of the Ten Commandments deal essentially with honesty in its broadest sense.
“Thou shalt not kill” (Exodus 20:13). It is an act of the worst kind of dishonesty to take away the life of another.
“Thou shalt not commit adultery” (Exodus 20:14). Adultery involves rank dishonesty. It becomes a betrayal of the solemn covenants of marriage.
“Thou shalt not steal” (Exodus 20:15). Stealing is obviously an act of dishonesty. It covers the whole broad field of theft, of cheating, of lying, of deceit, of taking to oneself that which belongs to another. It is reprehensible, inexcusable, and a violation of a standard of conduct that lies at the bedrock of civilization.
“Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbour” (Exodus 20:16). Falsehood is dishonesty. The malicious spreading of untrue accusations in an effort to injure another is one of the most vicious kinds of dishonesty. Said Shakespeare:
Good name in man and woman, . . .
Is the immediate jewel of their souls:
Who steals my purse steals trash; . . .
But he that filches from me my good name
Robs me of that which not enriches him,
And makes me poor indeed.
[Othello, act 3, scene 3, lines 155–61]
“Thou shalt not covet” (Exodus 20:17). Coveting is dishonest in its nature. It partakes of the greedy desire to have that which belongs to another. It is evil because it leads to evil consequences.
Can there be any question why those who partake of the blessings of this great institution should not subscribe to a code of honesty?
2. The second item is commitment.
It involves loyalty. It involves duty. It involves determination of objectives and the resolution to meet those objectives. It involves giving oneself without reservation to the accomplishment of a good and great purpose.
Wrote the poet Emerson:
So nigh is grandeur to our dust,
So near is God to man,
When Duty whispers low, Thou must,
The youth replies, I can.
[Ralph Waldo Emerson, “Voluntaries,” III, May-Day and Other Pieces (London: George Routledge and Sons, 1867), p. 82; emphasis in original]
Everyone citizen in this country owe this nation a commitment to give our time; to give our strength and energy; to work with singleness of purpose; to educate our mind, our heart, our hands, and our spirits so that we may serve our nation Ghana.
I know of no greater words of commitment than these given by the Lord:
And if your eye be single to my glory, your whole bodies shall be filled with light, and there shall be no darkness in you; and that body which is filled with light comprehendeth all things. (The Book of Doctrine & Covenant 88:67)
What tremendous power there is in commitment. What tremendous strength there is in singleness of purpose. What marvelous results follow commitment made to the glory of God, followed with the promise that that body which is filled with the light of Christ “comprehendeth all things.”
I will like to remind every reader that ours is the unique and wonderful opportunity to live in this great country, here we learn from each other the goodness of being Ghanaian from all diverse culture and background. Further, while in that process, we may draw nearer to God as we increase our knowledge concerning how we can make this great nation greater and stronger in honouring and sustaining our constitution and committing to it for the peace of this country. How great is our privilege. How strong must be your commitment.
I wish to thank every Ghanaian for the goodness of our lives though some will complain, for our desire to follow the constitution and for our willingness to live by the rules, for our commitment to the great cause of which each of us is a part. We speak of standards and codes and principles. I commend to you these great words of Solomon:
These six things doth the Lord hate: yea, seven are an abomination unto him:
A proud look, a lying tongue, and hands that shed innocent blood,
A heart that deviseth wicked imaginations, feet that be swift in running to mischief,
A false witness that speaketh lies, and he that soweth discord among brethren.
My son, keep thy father’s commandment, and forsake not the law of thy mother: . . .
For the commandment is a lamp; and the law is light; and reproofs of instruction are the way of life. [Proverbs 6:16–20, 23]
By Samuel Eno Eghan