A Giant Leap for Constitution Week in September
I have been thinking recently of a modern-day hero of mine. I remember his counsel when I was growing up in the 50s and 60s. He was a man of extraordinary vision and wisdom. I did not appreciate it near as much then as I do now, but as I reread his advice and counsel, and as I see the events of the nation and world unfold, my comprehension of what he was trying to get us to understand and do has become much clearer. His name was David O. McKay.
A Modern-Day Hero Who Wished All Citizens Knew America's Real Story
Among other things, I remember David O. McKay being very concerned about the direction America was headed. He seemed to know that powerful forces, even at that time, were beginning to take control of the country and lead us down a path with the eventual goal of changing America's tremendously successful freedom formula and abandoning the principles for which the Founders gave their lives and fortunes. He spent much of his time encouraging citizens to recognize what was really going on.
David O. McKay was a schoolteacher by profession. As such, he was well acquainted with the growing problems in public education and the fact that the real story of America's Founding Fathers and the subsequent attempts to destroy the Founders' formula were not being taught or hardly talked about anymore in the public schools. As a result, he encouraged people to learn it on their own. For example, in April, 1966, he said, "We wish all of our citizens throughout the land were participating in some type of organized self-education in order that they could better appreciate what is happening and know what they can do about it."
Truly Wise Men and Women Know the Founders Had Answers
As he was approaching the end of his life, David O. McKay was anxious to have something in place that would be a vehicle whereby all Americans, no matter what their political or religious persuasion, could learn about the powerful message of the Founding Fathers. He oft times repeated the theme that the Founders were the ones who had the answers to every problem America was facing. He said, "We need to rely on the Founders to solve our problems." He expressed concern that the Constitution, as it is now being taught in public education and in law schools, bears little resemblance to the original thinking of the Founders. It is his phrase we often use today when we say that we teach "the Constitution in the tradition of our Founding Fathers."
W. Cleon Skousen Accepts the Challenge
One of the people to pick up on his request to teach Americans the Founders' formula was W. Cleon Skousen. Many of us have heard Dr. Skousen tell how helpless he felt in the beginning when he contemplated starting an organization which had no ties or backing from any political or religious organization, but he was trying to do what David O. McKay and others had asked him to do. It would take a lot of work and study, but hopefully the Founders' message could be kept alive, eventually to blossom again in the hearts of many Americans. This is the mission of The National Center for Constitutional Studies.
As Dr. Skousen launched this organization in July 1971, it was with the assurance from his friend, David O. McKay, that if the Founder's message were packaged, the time would come when the world would come and ask for it. We all know how faithful he and the staff at NCCS were in preparing and packaging the message for the time when the people of this nation and the world would ask for it. Last fall, in reviewing with Dr. Skousen the success of our efforts to get the movie into the schools, an officer of NCCS asked him if this promise from Pres. McKay had ever been fulfilled. He said, "No, not fully, but I still believe that it will happen, even if not in my lifetime." This officer then asked Dr. Skousen if he thought the success of the organization in getting the DVD, A More Perfect Union , into the schools was a partial fulfillment of Pres. McKay's promise to him. He said, "Yes, it just might be." So he has left us the challenge to be ready when the door of opportunity is opened. Some of us feel like it is getting very close, especially with the invitation to send the movie to 100,000 schools this year.
Last Year Provided a Glimpse of What Can Happen
Last September was the first year schools across the nation were attempting to comply with the newly passed federal law requiring the teaching of the Constitution in every public school. Here is how we explained it:
With the President's signature on December 8, 2004, the Consolidated Appropriations Bill was signed and became Public Law 108-447. This Bill funded a major portion of the federal government for another year. Hidden deep inside the 3,000-page document is the following verbiage inserted by the suggestion of a senator's education policy advisor:
SEC. 111. (a) The head of each Federal agency or department shall-
(1) provide each new employee of the agency or department with educational and training materials concerning the United States Constitution as part of the orientation materials provided to the new employee; and
(2) provide educational and training materials concerning the United States Constitution to each employee of the agency or department on September 17 of each year.
(b) Each educational institution that receives Federal funds for a fiscal year shall hold an educational program on the United States Constitution on September 17 of such year for the students served by the educational institution.
It also provided that the designation of September 17 th be changed from Citizenship Day to "Constitution Day and Citizenship Day."
Even though it must be admitted that the federal budget as passed is filled with items the federal government should not be involved in, still it requires every school and government entity which receives federal money to instigate a program to teach the Constitution. It must also be admitted that, if left to those in charge, the "teaching" will probably be greatly lacking in quality and accuracy with regards to the Constitution in the tradition of the Founding Fathers. Therefore the National Center for Constitutional Studies is assuming a pro-active position in this effort and we are determined to supply quality materials for those to use who will be implementing this new federal requirement.
Our Centerpiece of Instruction - A More Perfect Union Feature Film
Perhaps like you, I have viewed this movie many times and I never tire of seeing it again. Each time I do, I learn something new. It seems to present all aspects of the making of the Constitution and does it in a way which is the modern-day attention grabber - a movie.
In 1787, America was in crisis . Eleven years had elapsed since the signing of the Declaration of Independence and we were still not really free. England waged a new war of unfair trade and tariffs. Bickering and jealousy fractured the once United States.
But a handful of brilliant men, James Madison, George Washington, and Benjamin Franklin , lead a political battle to create a new form of government, one that would establish the standard of self-government in the world.
A More Perfect Union: America Becomes A Nation is the first comprehensive recreation of those stirring, heated debates during the sweltering summer of 1787. Filmed on location at Independence Hall, in Williamsburg, Virginia, and other historical sites, it dramatically chronicles how America became a nation and brings out those underlying principles that guard our freedoms today.
Released in 1990, this feature film dramatization of the events of the Constitutional Convention of 1787 was shown initially on PBS nationwide and was viewed by almost two-and-a-half million people. It has received several gold and silver awards in national and international film festivals, including a prestigious Emmy Award presented by the Rocky Mountain Region.
A More Perfect Union makes us witnesses to the Constitutional Convention - that long, hot summer of struggle to create a new form of free government. It is exciting drama of the best kind - fact, rather than fiction. " It brings the history books to life , " writes one reviewer. " Dramatic, moving, and visually handsome ," says another. It was officially recognized by the Commission on the Bicentennial of the United States Constitution, who cited the film as being "of exceptional merit." A perfect teaching tool!
A Modicum of Success Last Year
The first year saw thousands of teachers receiving the movie from the NCCS and its supporters. The Department of Education of one state provided the postage and endorsement to disseminate the movie to each public school in its state. Many other teachers and schools, by word of mouth, have ordered copies. Now many history and social studies teachers have quality material in order to comply with this law. All this provided a taste for what could be done on a larger scale-a goal for which we have been working this past year.
A Massive Summer Project Underway
Enlivened by the success of last year, NCCS and some of its supporters have been working toward the goal of having every school in the United States receive the education version of the movie on DVD and a pocket Constitution, as well as suggestions for their use in the classroom. Did you know there are approximately 100,000 schools in America? The U. S. Department of Education has given us access to the mailing addresses of these schools, so we can donate one education packet for celebrating Constitution Week to each of them this summer.
Also, through the generosity of long-time supporters of NCCS, enough funds have been committed to produce the 100,000 DVDs and pocket Constitutions! As you can imagine, our resources have been stretched to the limit. We have also arranged the manpower necessary to put these packets together and prepare them for mailing.
The challenge now is to procure the funds for the postage. At the special mailing rate our organization has, each packet will cost between 25 and 27 cents to mail. That's about $27,000 for the whole project. We are asking you to help us make this enormous project possible by donating what you can towards the postage. Yes, we are even asking you to stretch a little more for the cause. Perhaps you could donate enough to cover the postage for the schools in your city, area, or with friends and others, including businesses, civic groups, organizations, etc. for your whole state?
Our goal is to mail these packets during the month of July so as to give schools and teachers an opportunity to plan for the biggest Constitution Week in history. What a fitting tribute to Dr. Skousen, who passed away in January, to have this year be the biggest "get reacquainted with the Constitution" year in history.
So won't you please help? Send in your contribution right away in the enclosed envelope, or if you are reading this by email, send it to the address at the top of this letter.
As George Washington said, "A primary object.should be the education of our youth in the science of government. In a republic, what species of knowledge can be equally important? And what duty more pressing.than communicating it to those who are to be the future guardians of the liberties of the country?"
Earl Taylor, Jr.