The following is the prepared text of remarks delivered by State Representative Steve Xiarhos (R – 5th Barnstable) at the Massachusetts Statehouse on September 7, 2023. Representative Xiarhos was addressing attendees at an assembly in the Hall of Flags in support of Resolutions calling on Article V of the United States Constitution for the convening of a Convention of the States. Representative Xiarhos is the presenting sponsor of this measure in the Massachusetts House of Representatives during the 2023-2024 legislative session.
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Dear Friends –
WELCOME TO THE PEOPLE’S HOUSE — IN BOSTON, MASSACHUSETTS — WHERE OUR AMERICAN FREEDOM WAS BORN!
Thank you so very much for being here today and for asking me to share a few words with you.
I think it’s fitting to note that we are here in the Massachusetts Statehouse.
Massachusetts is well known for the role it played in the formation of our great nation. Everyone knows about the Boston Tea Party, which happened right across town. And, everyone knows about Lexington and Concord, which happened just down the road a bit.
But here, right here in the Massachusetts Statehouse, this is where the ideals upon which our nation was founded are alive and well. This is where we work on those principles each and every day.
For us Bay Staters, the Statehouse is democracy’s home address.
It’s that spirit of democracy, and an innate desire to protect and perfect our democracy, which is why we’re here today. It’s a cause I believe in deeply on a personal level.
My son — United States Marine Corporal Nicholas G. Xiarhos — rests in peace in his beloved dress blues in our Massachusetts National Cemetery, forever frozen in time at age 21. Nicholas and his Marines fought, bled, and died for our nation, to protect our freedom and our democracy and I am not about to see those freedoms undermined or abandoned.
We are blessed in this nation to have a blueprint for democracy, one handed down to us by our nation’s Founding Fathers back in 1787. In fact, we will celebrate Constitution Day coming up on September 17 to commemorate the Constitutional Convention and the document it bestowed to us. And, what a marvel that document is.
Our Constitution remains the oldest surviving plan of democratic government in the free world.
It’s brilliance is unrivaled!
Our Founding Fathers knew how important it was to create a system of government that would withstand the test of time and protect those God-given liberties they fought so hard for as part of the American Revolution, the ideals expressed just a few years before in the Declaration of Independence. Ideals that life, liberty, and happiness were the underpinnings of any good nation, as well as the principle that all men are created equal. And, as they knew that men are not angels, they created a system of checks and balances and reserved powers to make sure that freedom would not be undermined.
Today, we continue to enjoy the blessings bestowed upon us by the Constitution. This is something I know well, as I am privileged to be a practitioner of our democracy every day through my service as a State Representative from the 5th Barnstable District on Cape Cod. I call it “The Fightin’ 5th” and it’s a job I love dearly.
But, here’s the point. For all of our Constitution’s magnificence and enduring importance, it is not a perfect document. After all, nothing man-made is ever truly perfect. And, that’s why we are all here today.
Like any other document, the Constitution was meant to be changed over time, when needed, by way of amendment. In fact, even the Founding Fathers realized the Constitution as originally drafted wasn’t the final word. That’s why they created the Bill of Rights, arguably one of the most important parts of our Constitution, by way of amendment soon after the Constitution was ratified.
The Constitution sets forth two ways it may be amended. The first and most common way is for two-thirds of Congress to propose an amendment, which then must be ratified by three-fourths of the legislatures of the states.
This process has withstood the test of time.
But, many of us look around these days and wonder why there hasn’t been an amendment to our Constitution ratified since 1992. In fact, the 27th Amendment, which requires that Congressional pay raises not take effect until the next Congress, took 202 years to be ratified by the states after being proposed by the first Congress alongside 11 other amendments, ten of which became the Bill of Rights.
I’m sure I’m not the only one who’s noticed that there are a few things that we could consider changing about how our government works. And, I’m sure I’m not the only one who knows that these changes are difficult if not impossible to make by way of Congressional amendments.
So, there is another way to amend the Constitution, and it’s set forth right in Article 5. It’s a process that hearkens back to the first three words of the Constitution, reminding us that in America the power resides in “We, the People,” and that power not expressly granted to the federal government are reserved to the several states.
Article 5 allows two-thirds of state legislatures to call for a so-called Convention of States to consider and propose amendments to the Constitution, which then can be ratified and take effect as if they had been proposed by Congress.
I am proud to be the sponsor of the bill that would call for Massachusetts to join the growing chorus of states calling for a Convention of States this year.
Why is this important?
Well, it’s pretty simple. I’ve been in elected office for just three years now, and in that time I’ve learned something pretty simple: government is not inclined to limit or to take away its own power. That’s something we see all the time here on the state level, and it’s definitely true when it comes to our federal government.
For years, presidents have called for line item veto authority to constrain the power of Congress to spend money. It’s a power that executives in many states, including our own Governor here in Massachusetts, are privileged to wield. But when the President considers a spending bill, it’s just an up-or-down. A Convention of States could solve that problem by proposing a Constitutional amendment that Congress would never pass itself.
Likewise, how about a balanced budget amendment? The Massachusetts Constitution requires that our state pass a balanced budget every year. (And, thank God it does!) But the federal Constitution has no such requirement.
That’s precisely why our nation gets deeper and deeper and deeper into debt each and every year. Isn’t it time for the states to impose fiscal discipline on the runaway spending that Congress engages in? A Convention of States could do just that.
How about term limits? The Constitution proposes qualifications of office for Senators and Congressmen. But there is no term limit. Our country was built on an understanding that people from all walks of life would bring their perspectives to our nation’s capital. And then, they were meant to go home. Nobody was meant to be a career politician. But, mark my words, Congress is never going to agree to term limits. Many states have passed initiatives, but isn’t this an issue best addressed by one national rule?
The list goes on and on, but the principle is the same. It is clear that it’s time for our nation to consider a Convention of State to limit the power and jurisdiction of the federal government, impose fiscal restraints, and place term limits on federal officials. And, that’s exactly what legislation I’ve presented here in Massachusetts would call for.
Nineteen states have already passed the Convention of States resolution. We need 34 states to get to a convention, and it takes 38 states to ratify any amendments that are proposed.
Let’s all realize how important this process is to our democracy. And, let’s all remember that this process would not harm our Constitution or our government – it’s a process called for by the Constitution itself and is meant to improve the Constitution and the way our federal government works, not undermine it.
In his famous Gettysburg Address, Abraham Lincoln said:
“…we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain—that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom—and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the Earth.”
My son died for our freedom. Like so many others who came before him, my son died to protect this nation. Today, as a Gold Star Father, I stand before you as one who is resolved that his death will not be in vain.
We must do all we can to make sure that government of the people, by the people, and for the people is as perfect as it can be, and to keep the hopes and dreams of our Founding Fathers alive and well in this, our ever changing world.
As always, the power to accomplish all of this rests with us. We, the people.
Please join with me in calling for a Convention of States to make this happen. Let’s pass this resolution, let’s hold a Convention of States, and let’s have the people decide what is best for us.
I am a free Massachusetts man because millions of Americans fought, bled, and died for me. And I promise that those sacrifices will not be in vain.
Thank you, and may God continue to bless OUR Commonwealth of Massachusetts, our powerful Nation, and our great Constitution!