“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Updating an Outdated Document: Focus group results on a national Book Club to read the U.S. Constitution (and propose amendments)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.