The surviving members of the convention that wrote Montana's constitution in 1972 will meet in the state House chambers Friday to mark the 40th anniversary of its adoption.
The 31 members who are still alive will sit in the same seats they were assigned to four decades ago.
Family and friends will fill the seats of the 69 remaining members.
The document they wrote and which was adopted by voters is widely viewed as a model for the rest of the country, but yet it is uniquely Montanan.
Like the state it governs, the constitution strikes a balance between personal freedom and community.
It offers many guarantees of personal rights not included in the United State Constitution. It assures Montanans of a right of privacy, of a clean and healthful environment and of personal dignity. It guarantees rights to Native Americans like no other state constitution. It reflects Montana's traditions of libertarianism on the wide-open spaces.
It guarantees the people the right to an open government where people are able to see what their government is doing and why.
At the same time, it assures Montanans that when times are tough, their neighbors will help them out. The sick and the poor will be taken care of. It reflects Montana's long tradition that we are all each other's keepers.
It establishes a well-organized government that is free to follow the will of the people, but that must operate within well-established guidelines.
Like few other states, it ensures that government must operate in sunlight, where press and public have a right to see what is going on.
Adoption of the constitution was a seminal moment in Montana and even American history. It replaced a constitution that was adopted in the days when the copper barons ran the state, where state government was a mishmash of boards and agencies.
It is designed to give maximum power not to the powerful but to the people. And it ensures that the majority cannot trample on the rights of the minority. It established a form of government that can be responsive to the people while guaranteeing rights to all.
At Friday's meeting, the delegates and their relatives will hear talks from Gov. Brian Schweitzer, Supreme Court Justice James Nelson and a variety of other dignitaries. They will look back at the events that led to the adoption. We hope the remaining delegates will be saluted by those who have benefitted over the last 40 years from their work. We hope this will be not just a look back at one important historical action, but a look forward at what can still be realized from the document.
As memories fade and the numbers of living delegates dwindle, the spirit they symbolized in the constitution is growing even stronger.
People who believe in that Montana spirit will be giving a silent ovation to the delegates as they meet in Helena Friday.