May 2011 Archives

May 8, 2011

Talk About It -- Democracy Needs Advocates

Full disclosure: I am the sort of person who gets off the plane in DC and heads directly to the National Archives before doing anything else. I wholeheartedly admit that I am a fan of seeing these documents up close and personal and have been asked by security to "move along" as I stand mesmerized by their enormity.

Apparently, not many young Americans would likely beg their parents to head to the Archives. But they probably all should go there before stopping elsewhere in our beautiful capital city.

This year, the ABA is focusing its educational effort on civics education for young Americans. The ABA has noted that many of us are not as well-versed as we should be in the documents that are at the core of our Democracy.

On a recent trip to Philadelphia, I stopped by the National Constitution Center. I walked through the Balance of Powers section and much to my amazement there was a student sitting poised on a board, a real live person that is, to demonstrate the balance of powers and to tell visitors what it means. The student was reluctant to spend time explaining this to me once I revealed my profession. "You already know about this," she said, "I am supposed to explain this to kids who don't know about what this means." I was thrilled to see the display and the student volunteer and happy to move on, just like in the Archives, sort of.

Several years ago, former ABA president Mike Greco asked members to wear gavels on our lapels and explain the Separation of Powers to anyone who asked. An intelligent 30-something friend of mine did ask and when I responded "the gavel stands for Separation of Powers -- would you like to talk about this?" She responded graciously, "No, I am not interested in politics." When young intelligent Americans of voting age believe that Separation of Powers is a political issue, you know we are in trouble.

It takes time to become an expert on the Constitution, but being an American doesn't require that much expertise. Basic knowledge is better than none. And although I applaud the efforts of those who mention the Constitution for their own purposes, one wonders whether they have actually read it. (You all might recall recently when one Senate candidate who disclaimed being a witch, also claimed she was a constitutional expert because she went to a graduate school program for a week. Need I say more?)

Go to Twitter, tell your kids, tell your friends' kids, share your knowledge. Blog about it on your marketing blogs just once -- it won't be a problem for your SEO I promise.

If you have a chance to educate just one person about American Democracy, please do. It's the only way we have a prayer of keeping it viable for the long term.