This group, coordinated by Eric Johnson of Woodstock, made their presentations before approximately 200 eighth-grade students at two county schools.
Participants in this Constitution Day presentation included Mr. Johnson, who represented Frederick Douglas, the abolitionist; former congressman the Honorable Bob Barr represented Paul Revere; Jean Garner of Canton represented Betsy Ross; Kelly Marlow of Holly Springs represented Benjamin Franklin, and Eric Beatty of Woodstock represented George Washington.
Each participant wore some article of clothing tied to the Founders era, the era America’s foundational documents were created. It was quite a sight, and caused many turn-around stares by students.
Each student was given a Pocket Constitution that included the Declaration of Independence. Mr. Beatty, representing George Washington and wearing a long white wig typical of the era, at the end of each presentation read from the back of the Pocket Constitution the following: “With the original Signers, I, as one, of We, the People of the United States, affirm that I have read our U.S. Constitution, and pledge to maintain and promote its standard of liberty for myself and for my posterity, and do hereby attest to that by my signature.”
This was followed by a space to affix one’s signature.
Each presenter’s presentation was designed to meet the level of understanding of eighth-grade students. Former Congressman Barr, as Paul Revere, told how he, as Paul Revere was remembered as the one who rode to warn his fellow countryman in 1775 that “the British are coming, the British are coming.”
He then asked how many students had their driving licenses. None.
This led to a discussion on cars as he pulled his Constitution from his pocket and reminded the students that the Constitution is like the owner’s manual found in the glove compartment of each car, the manual created by the manufacturer to help when trouble develops with the car.
“The Constitution,” he said, “is America’s owner’s manual to help America correct itself when trouble develops along the way and corrections are needed to get America up and running again.” It was a great analogy, easily understood by the students.
Jean Garner, a true storyteller, representing Betsy Ross, held up a replica of the original flag, with 13 states and 13 stripes, representing each of the 13 colonies. Garner provided a brief history of how Betsy was involved, but then told the story of a 13-year-old girl who had volunteered during the difficult days leading up to the Yorktown battle that ended the war.
My wife, Joan, said every eye in the class followed Jean as she walked amidst the students telling her story. It was so compelling that even I, a student of that time, found it compelling enough to ask several questions after we left the school. Historically, Jean was correct in every detail.
I related, as Thomas Jefferson, how he had been assigned to write the document that would become America’s foundational document, sent to the king of England outlining the colonists’ reasons for separating from England.
I related how I, as Thomas Jefferson, was holed up in a small room for 17 days, alone with my thoughts contemplating my assignment. I explained that it took me 15 days to write the first two paragraphs of that document, and how the fourth paragraph was used to seek help from “the Supreme Judge of the world” and then to “mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes, and our sacred Honor.”
I reinforced to the students that Jefferson’s Declaration of Independence was the solid foundation upon which the Constitution was created and that America’s foundational documents could become a strong foundation for their lives as they become the leaders of these United States when it becomes their turn to take over the leadership of this greatest, and freest nation in the world.
Driving to our first presentation at 7:20 a.m. proved to be a real eye-opener for both Joan and me.
We had no idea how crowded the roads are at that time of day, or how long the lines leading into the schools are. But it was a good morning, and worth our effort to participate in this wonderful event — remembering America’s Constitution Day.
Donald Conkey is a retired agricultural economist in Woodstock.