“In my purse I carry ….. the U.S. Constitution”

“In my purse I carry ….. the U.S. Constitution”
Updating an Outdated Document:   Focus group results on a national Book Club to read the U.S. Constitution (and propose amendments)
Published February 18, 2015

In October 2014, I was invited to present my national book club idea at a non-political networking event.  Idea Potluck in Chicago is an evening of 8 short presentations (6 minutes each).    Speakers present on any topic of their choosing and are invited based on the organizers’ belief that we’re “interesting” and “cool”.   (I appreciate the stamp of approval from my daughter and son-in-law, the organizers of Idea Potluck.)

BOOK CLUB.  The purpose of the book club is to create a national conversation around the single document that has structured every public decision in the U.S. since 1789.   It is worth noting right here that no women, no African-Americans, and no Native Americans were involved in writing the U.S. Constitution.  Nor were any non-humans consulted or given a voice in the 1789 Constitution.

The basics of the book club would be a web-based initiative that would facilitate local groups nationwide to
a.  Read and discuss the U.S. Constitution
b.  Draft amendments that reflect the needs of 21st century residents of the U.S.
c.  Organize Constitutional Conventions in every state to tweak and ratify amendments that would bring 21st century U.S. policy in line with the realities of 21st century life

FOCUS GROUP RESULTS:  Here are the results of my presentation and questions that I posed to the audience:

1.  The event was attended by 50-60 random strangers, mostly 20-30 year olds, a few 40s, a few 50s+
2.  Answers to questions I posed:
a.  About 10 people had studied the Constitution in school, in depth.  (Illinois has a US Constitution test for middle school students.  Not every state does.)
b.  About 50% showed enthusiasm for participating in such a book club.
3.  Two women volunteered that they carry a copy of the U.S. Constitution with them at all times — in their purses.

IN MY PURSE, I CARRY….  Two people out of a random 50-60 strangers carry the U.S. Constitution in their purses?!?!?

I was blown away.   Even I, who have been advocating this book club for almost 2 years, wasn’t carrying around the Constitution every day.

I do now.   And you can, too.   There are many pocket-sized printed versions of the Constitution and many websites that offer reasonably priced copies — some even for free.

DO-IT-YOURSELF CONSTITUTION BOOKLET.  The best site that I’ve found is a do-it-yourself Constitution Booklet:   Print a 10-page PDF file (double-sided).   The website has a YouTube to help you navigate the fine points of folding, stapling, and trimming.

U.S. CONSTITUTION IN TERMS OF FOOD, FARMS, AND DEMOCRACY.   In terms of food, farms, and democracy, such a book club can get specific about “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness” (Declaration of Independence) and the national goals as stated in the Constitution Preamble:  “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.”

PARTNERS FOR BOOK CLUB?   If anyone wants to partner on a national book club to update the U.S. Constitution, let me know.   I’m looking for sponsoring organizations, funders, and local partners all over the U.S.  Plus, I’d like to find out how many more “closet Constitution carriers” there are out there.


A Resolution on Food, Farms, and Democracy

Posted November 11, 2014
Presented at the Congress to Address the First Woman's Rights Convention
Chicago, IL: March 2014

Earlier this year, I was honored and excited to be included in the culmination of year-long event to update the document produced by the 1848 Women's Rights Convention. The document — the Declaration of Sentiments and Resolutions — was itself an attempt to update the 1776 Declaration of Independence, universally recognized as the document that created the United States of America and that led to the document that frames our lives today — the U.S. Constitution (adopted in 1789).

The project was organized by Anne Elizabeth Moore, a Chicago artist, writer, and speaker. I was invited to contribute a resolution on Food, Farms, and Democracy. Here is the detailed report from Anne's website, including a link to the videotaping of the proceedings. The text of the Resolution is below.

Report of the Congress to Address the First Woman's Rights Convention Chicago, IL: March 2014

165 years after the creation of the Declaration of Sentiments and Resolutions, a document written in 1848 by Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Lucretia Coffin Mott, Mary Ann McClintock, Elizabeth W. McClintock, and Jane Hunt and adopted by a committee of slightly over 100 men and women at the first Women’s Rights Convention in Seneca Falls, NY, hundreds of folks of all ages and genders around the world actively engaged in questions of gender equity in the US found that 12 of the 18 original Sentiments still held true as originally worded.

On March 29, 2014, at the Newberry Library in Chicago, a group came together to discuss the findings of the online poll, and address some deeper problems in the wording of the original that may have contributed to the document’s ineffectiveness as an organizing tool in the 166 intervening years. This group also presented new Resolutions pertinent to ongoing women’s rights and gender justice struggles in the US.

The Report of the Congress to Address the First Woman's Rights Convention at Seneca Falls is the result, an updated, revised, and expanded version of the original Declaration of Sentiments and Resolutions, the original having been created exactly 166 years before.

Watch the CAN-TV documentary of the March 29 Congress at the Newberry Library here.  The Resolution on Food, Farms, and Democracy is 90 minutes into the video.  (1:30)

Text of Resolution on Food, Farms, and Democracy
Proposed by Debbie L. Hillman  (Evanston, Illinois)
Evanston Food Council (co-founder)
Illinois Local Food, Farms, and Jobs Council (co-founder)

WE ACKNOWLEDGE that the U.S. Constitution was written without all women's voices and that the words that have framed the birth, mythology, and legal institutions of the U.S. are abstract, outdated, incomplete, and subject to confusion and manipulation.

RESOLVED that all women of the United States meet in councils for 13 moons to formulate amendments to the U.S. Constitution that would articulate

1. The inalienable standing of each human organism in a natural habitat, including the right to Food (basic survival needs — food, air, water, energy), Farms (free access to land, space, education, living skills), and Democracy (self-representation).

2. The inalienable powers and responsibilities of women to promote and defend those rights — for every meal, every person, every season, every generation, every species.

3. The mechanism(s) by which women will implement such powers and responsibilities.