(Editor’s note:Opinion pieces are published for discussions purposes only.)
By Dan Barr | Special to the Arizona Daily Star
This week is Sunshine Week, the annual nationwide celebration of the benefits of access to public information and those who fight for such access.
Sunshine Week is always in mid-March because it includes the March 16 birthday of James Madison, an author of the Constitution and the Bill of Rights and the fourth president of the United States. Those who wrote our Constitution in 1789 had only four years earlier defeated the most powerful nation on Earth. They were “radicals” in every sense of the word, and in the Declaration of Independence they had proclaimed the revolutionary idea that governments “deriv[e] their just powers from the consent of the governed.”
As U.S. Supreme Court Justice William Brennan would write almost 200 years later in New York Times v. Sullivan,“This form of government was ‘altogether different’ from the British form, under which the Crown was sovereign and the people were subjects.”
The “press” is the only private business mentioned in the Bill of Rights. The Founding Fathers did so to protect its role in providing needed information about government and public affairs to the people — the sovereign — so that the people could effectively govern themselves. Ideally, our form of government best operates when there is a transparent government, a vigorous press and an involved and informed citizenry. While that ideal is rarely met, we must strive for it, nevertheless.