Two hundred and nineteen years ago today, the United States ratified the Bill of Rights, protecting the freedoms and liberties of individuals from government control.

Contained within are all the privileges that have come to define American identity: Free speech. A fair trial. Freedom from cruel or unusual punishment. Freedom from unreasonable searches.

At the time, some doubted whether a few words could prevent government from interfering with individual liberties. Even the man called the Father of the Bill of Rights, James Madison, worried that it was a mere “parchment barrier,” too weak to truly protect people from oppression.

So what has kept the freedoms and liberties guaranteed by the Bill of Rights alive more than 200 years later? The bravery and hard work of ordinary, everyday Americans who protest against unjust laws, speak up at the sight of abuses and stand up when someone else is being harmed.

We at the ACLU of Michigan take today to honor those who have risked their freedom, security, and even their lives to ensure we enjoy our civil liberties. It is through such dedication and strength that the Bill of Rights will continue to be vital for another 200 years.

Happy Bill of Rights Day!