Thorner: Constitutional Sound Bites: Quick and Easy American History

July 6, 2016

 

Thursday, June 30, 2016

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By Nancy Thorner – 

Quick, pay attention – think you know all you should about America’s founding? Well, here’s some “Constitutional Sound Bites” from a powerful new book authored by David Shestokas:

 “Declaration of Independence – Did you know?

  • Thomas Jefferson became a lawyer at 24 years old and wrote the “Declaration” at age 33.
  • The impact of the “Declaration of Independence” upon the world was dramatic.  When written in 1776 it was the first such document in history to declare a people free and self-governing.
  • Before the “Declaration of Independence”, a government was typically an empire controlled by a royal family.
  • The Declaration of Independence issued a list of grievances against King.
  • Jefferson patterned the Declaration like a complaint in a court case.  There is a statement of law, a list of violations of law and the proper remedy for those violations

Preamble to Constitution –  Words and phrases as understood by our Founding Fathers –  Did you know?

  • What was meant by “more perfect union?” –  Still related at the time to the Latin origin, perficere, to finish or complete.  It meant a more complete union than had existed before the “Constitution.
  • What was meant by to “establish justice?”  The implication is that justice did not exist under the “Articles of Confederation.”
  • What was meant by “general welfare?”  “General” meant applicable to the whole rather than to the local, individual, or special interests, while welfare” referred to a Constitution goal to promote the happiness of the nation as a whole.

U.S. Constitution” – Did you know? 

  • The “Constitution” represented the most important event in human history.  Before the ratification process took place in 1787 and 1788, self-government hadn’t existed before.
  • Gouverneur Morris, a lawyer at 19 years old, wrote the Constitution at age 35, yet he is one of the most unknown Founding Fathers.
  • Although Alexander Hamilton and James Madison were on the 5-member committee to write the Constitution, James Madison gave Gouverneur Morris credit for the final Constitution, which he wrote in four days!
  • Colonists knew what a “Power of Attorney” was.  This form was used by lawyers of the time for many different occasions. 
  • Power of Attorney was explained in terms of what many Americans have in the 21centruy, a Health Care Power of Attorney.  
  • Constitution followed the form of the commonly understood Power of Attorney. 
  • Constitution laid side by side with the Power of Attorney follows the same outline.

Bill of Rights – Did you know?

  • The first 10 amendments to the Constitution.
  • James Madison originally proposed 19 amendments to the First Congress.
  • These amendments were changes to the originally ratified Constitution.
  • Supporters of the Constitution had promised to add a Bill of Rights during debate about whether or not the Constitution should be adopted, in response to Anti-Federalists who argued against the Constitution because it lacked protections for basic human liberty.

The First Amendment – Did you know?

  • How many rights are named in the First Amendment and what are they?  
  • Remembering them all will place you among one in one thousand who are able to state the number of rights and then name them.
  • These questions were posed to Heartland attendees by David Shestokas.  Two got all five right.  Many forgot “Freedom to Petition for Redress of Grievances” There is a reason for this:  The people no longer have the right to have their representatives entertain their petitions.  
  • The other four rights are: Freedom of Religion, Speech, Press, and Assembly.

In a continuing series of free events sponsored by The Heartland Institute, David J. Shestokas, author and lawyer, was featured in keeping with Heartland’s recently established Center for Constitutional Reform, a project of The Heartland Institute.  Kyle Maichle as Project Manager of Constitution Reform, introduced Mr. Shestokas who provided insight into his book, Constitutional Sound Bites, which provides an accurate and accessible resource regarding the “Declaration of Independence”, “Constitution”, and “Bill of Rights.”  The book is available at Amazon in print and Kindle editions\

David Shestokas earned his B.A. in political science from Bradley University in 1975 and his J.D., cum laude in 1987 from The John Marshall Law School where he swerved on the institution’s law review.  Mr. Shestokas founded the Law Office of David Shestokas in November on 1987.  After practicing in areas such as criminal defense, corporate law, real estate, and business financing, he later served as Assistant State’s Attorney for Cook County in Chicago from 1994 to 1998.  During that time he also worked on the Felony Review Unit, participating in police investigations and making charging decisions in more than 400 felony cases.  

David Shestokas reveals

As Mr. Shestokas notes: The leaders of Revolutionary American were used to reading long documents like the Federalist Papers to gain understanding of the important documents of that time, but it’s not the way the American people receive their information in the twenty-first century.  Americans have become used to getting information in small dose through sound-bites 

Keeping this in mind, Shestokas’ unique book assumes a question and answer format which allows readers to quickly and effectively grasp bursts of material, both children and adults, at a time when our Nation’s Founding receives little attention in American classrooms.  For as Mr. Shestokas related, it is difficult to be a good American without understanding how America was made and what America stands for. 

Below are the first three question posed to readers under Chapter 1, Constitutional Consideration, of Shestokas’ book.  Answers are located in the book below each question:

  • What events during the Christmas of 1776 saved United States independence and set the stage for the Constitution? 
  • How long after the Declaration of Independence did the Constitution go into effect?
  • Why does the United States have three branches of government?

Answers are set forth in a concise, easy to understand, and meaningful way.  This is definitely a must-read book with historical anecdotes that add depth and content which make 18th Century history come to life in 21th Century style. 

Gov. Nikki Haley, a Republican, signed a South Carolina House bill into law on June 1, 2016 that implements the study of U.S. founding documents into the social studies programs of the state’s public high schools.  All public education students, both in high school and in college, are required to pass a test after a year-long class.  Every state should have such a requirement.     

Power is always trying to restrict liberty.   Education is so important to understand when abuse of power is taking place, which our Founding Fathers, in declaring independence from England, wanted to leave behind.  Documents were fashioned to make this new nation unique and different from any other nation in the world.  

Beyond Constitutional Sound Bites, in collaboration with Dr. Berta Arias, Spanish professor and past president of the Illinois Latino Council on Higher Education Shestokas has produced the first explanation of America’s Founding Documents in Spanish, Cápsulas Informativas Constitucionales, for the 36,000,000 Americans more comfortable with Spanish than English. Cápsulas Informativas Constitucionales is also available on Amazon in print and Kindle editions.

The collaboration of Shestokas and Arias has also lead to the first Spanish language website devoted to America’s Founding Principles: De Los Estados Unidos  http://www.delosestadosunidos.com/ (About the United States).

Future plans include a children’s book, and a book devoted to the amendments following the Bill of Rights.

The You Tube of the Heartland event featuring David Shestokas and his book, Constitutional Sound Bites, can be viewed here

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