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Before our first class for Constitutional Law, our assignment was to read the Constitution in its entirety. As a recent business school graduate, I couldn’t help but draw a parallel and think of the United States as a business entity. Then, I started wondering, would the Constitution be its mission or vision statement?
In my operations and strategy courses at my undergraduate institution, we learned that a mission statement identifies an organization’s primary purpose for existing. For example, Google’s mission statement is to “organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful.” On the other hand, a vision statement is a high-level statement of what the organization wants to achieve in the future. Following the previous example, Google’s vision statement is “to provide an important service to the world-instantly delivering relevant information on virtually any topic.”
Of course, I know it’s an immense oversimplification to analogize the nation to a business entity. Yet, I do find it an interesting exercise to explore whether the Constitution more establishes an identity for the country based on the framers’ perception – a more “mission statement” purpose – or whether it sets forth a foresight of what the country should aspire towards – a “vision statement” type of objective.
Upon further rumination, I think an argument can be made for both (sorry, I’m a law student, after all.)
In many ways, I view the Preamble in itself as a mission statement, an establishment of purpose:
“We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.”
If we think of the United States as an organization, then this sentence underscores several principles at the core of the “organization’s” existence. From the very initial words, ‘we the people,’ we can infer a commitment to democratic ideals. Other embedded phrases, such as ‘blessings of liberty’ reflect a pledge to protect individual freedoms. After the Preamble, the rest of the Constitution further details the function of the nation and how its various branches operate. In this sense, the document outlines America’s “primary purpose of existing,” consistent with the objective of a mission statement.
At the same time, when looking at the entire Constitution within its original cultural context, I can see how it serves to cement the values towards which the new nation strove. The Constitution replaced the Articles of Confederation, which failed to adequately establish a government structure that would unite the thirteen colonies. While drafting the Constitution, the framers understood they had to strike a more effective balance between federal and state powers in order to create a more unified country. In this sense, the document manifests a future the founders wanted to create, acting as a “high-level statement of what the organization wants to achieve.” This analysis is more aligned with the objective of a vision statement, then.
Certainly, I understand that this type of business environment metaphor is distorted in the first place, given the country is not a corporate entity and cannot be scrutinized as such. I don’t think we can so categorically place the Constitution in either the mission or vision statement box. However, I do know for sure that both mission and vision statements are integral to creating a consistent brand identity for any organization. To apply the business lens in the most broad sense, then, I think I can safely say that the Constitution is essential to America’s fabric as a whole; it has always shaped and continues to mold the identity of the nation to this day.
Roma Gujarathi is a first-year student at BC Law. She loves to hear from readers: email her at email@example.com.