But what really affected me was the way that Humphrey proceeded to explain how the Preamble formed the basis of his view of the Constitution and, indeed, of the role of the federal government.
The Preamble reads:
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.
As Humphrey noted, each of the verbs is active: to "establish" Justice; justice does not spring up on its own. "Insure" domestic tranquility: we must act to assure a civil society. "Provide" for the common defense: we must make the efforts necessary to defend the nation. "Promote" the general welfare; it does not come automatically. "Secure" the blessings of liberty: we cannot simply expect that freedom will flower, we must work to make liberty real.
As the Preamble sets the tone for the Constitution that is the foundation of the United States government, Hubert Humphrey argued that it should set the tone for our politics as well. In doing so, he also refuted those who would take a cramped and narrow view of government's role.
(Your editor worked very, very hard as a volunteer for Humphrey's 1968 presidential campaign. Hubert Humphrey was a good and gentle man, but tough enough to come within a whisker of winning that year; indeed, had the Left turned out, he would have been President. I recall how I walked around in a near-stupor for days after the election, unable to believe that the American people had chosen moral midgets like Richard Nixon and Spiro Agnew over men with the stature of Hubert Humphrey and his running mate, Edmund Muskie.)