Happy New Year for our Constitution in 2011!

It’s now a new year and I’m filled with high expectations for our country and its regard for our Constitution. Indeed, I feel a classic Hollywood ending is coming our way.

Rep. Scott Garrett (R-NJ), Founder and Chairman of the Congressional Constitution Caucus, introduced a bill on December 17, 2010, that would require congressional staff members to complete annual training on the Constitution.http://garrett.house.gov/News/DocumentSingle.aspx?DocumentID=217853

Though I am thrilled, but I have to ask myself how we arrived at a condition where U.S. Congressmen feel the need to mandate congressional staff study the Constitution each year?

Back in 1787, newspapers in our country were filled with arguments for and against ratifying the Constitution, along with copies of its text. Tempers ran high on both sides where people congregated, such as the taverns of the late 1700s. The people knew the arguments for and against ratification.

Having sacrificed 25,000 lives in a 7-year war to attain political freedom, Americans cherished their liberty. Ratifying our Constitution, then, was a matter of the greatest importance. “We the People” cared!

Moving forward more than 200 years to today, people don’t have the same care for our Constitution. A survey released on September 16, 2010, the 223rd anniversary of the signing the U.S. Constitution, clearly shows this lack. It was conducted by the Center for the Constitution, located on the grounds of James Madison’s restored home in Virginia. The survey showed that while 86% of Americans believed the Constitution was important in their daily lives;

  • Only 28% have read all of the Constitution’s 4,400 words, with only 14% having read most of it;
  • Only 16% of “young people” aged 18-24 report understanding “a lot” about the Constitution;
  • 38% of “young people” believe it is time for a new Constitution; while more than 90% of those over 35 believe the Constitution still works.

For more details on this survey, see http://www.montpelier.org/aboutus/press/media/pdf/16sep10-state_of_the_constitution.pdf

What is the difference between then and now? Well, obviously, there is a world of difference. A key one is where we fight our battles. When we declared our independence in 1776, we were engaged in conflict on our own soil, fighting the greatest empire on Earth at that time. Today, our government and armed forces fight the battles against terrorism, but we can still go shopping at the malls.

We have many advantages today over Americans during of the 1770s and 1780s but for one: our faltering education system. The President warned us back in March that our declining education system is putting the country at a competitive disadvantage.http://voices.washingtonpost.com/44/2010/03/obama-warns-of-falling-educati.html

Yet there is a much simpler and even more basic factor regarding people not reading or understanding our Constitution today. That is the obvious point that it was written in language that is now over 200 years old and contains hard-to-understand legal terms. The original document is only 4 handwritten pages. In a government pamphlet, the Constitution and Amendments only fill up 25 printed pages. It is not a long document.

That’s why I wrote The People’s Guide to the United States Constitution, which can be read in just several hours. It is an easy-to-read, spin-free guide to the Constitution, amendments and Declaration of Independence.

My book provides both the essential historical context and important definitions of the language used at the time they were written. You can read straight through the original texts and gain confidence in your own understanding of the powerful and exciting documents written to guarantee your freedom. Our Declaration of Independence and Constitution are the true legacy of our Founding Fathers.

The movie Mr. Smith Goes to Washington of 1939 has a true a classic ending. In that film, a naïve young “Mr. Smith” (James Stewart) is appointed to fill a vacant seat in the U.S. Senate. Mr. Smith is confronted with vast corruption, but his sense of moral integrity, his unshakable understanding of right and wrong wins the day.

In 1939, following the film’s premiere, politicians and news writers around the country threatened Columbia Studios for releasing Mr. Smith Goes to Washington. U.S. Senators publicly spoke out about the ridiculous representation of the United States Congress.

Yet, despite everything, Mr. Smith Goes to Washington became an American Classic.http://findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_g1epc/is_tov/ai_2419100837/

As it’s New Years Day, I am filled with confidence. I believe we can have a Hollywood ending to our troubles as a nation. I believe “We the People” can re-create the care and participation our forefathers had in the late 1700s in ratifying our Constitution.

I believe we can restore our Constitution to an American Classic. With an easy way to now read and understand our Constitution, I believe 2011 will be bright for us all.

Dave Kluge