One of the greatest joys of my life is speaking to children in classrooms across America about the United States Constitution. I focus on empowering the students with the tools in their toolbox given to them by the U.S. Constitution. I have given over 230 constitutional speeches to approximately 20,000 people.
I have spoken to many school districts across the country and statewide including HEB ISD, Eagle Mountain-Saginaw ISD, Dallas ISD, Garland ISD along with charter, private schools and national civic groups. My longtime dream, however, had been to speak to the schools in my community, Colleyville, and Southlake. I have owned a home in Colleyville, and my church is in Southlake.
On September 12, 2017, I spoke to 600 middle school students at Eubanks Intermediary School of the Carroll Independent School District in honor of Constitution Day. Since Southlake, Texas is my community it was a special occasion for me. The kids had fun, and all of the teachers and administration were very excited after the speech, and grateful. Social media photos and posts abounded from the school.
Constituting America’s speeches are always upbeat, conversational and include video clips from former student winners of our We the Future contest, so that they may be inspired by other kids like them. The contest includes categories in the arts and STEM and the winners not only receive prizes and scholarships but mentor trips and something no other foundation provides – the promotion of their winning works, their careers, and dreams.
Our best song winner has had 24 million impressions of her song on the First Amendment over 65 radio stations, and our best high school winner's PSA has aired on television in approximately 5.9 million households. Our best elementary artwork and poem winners’ works are marketed as notecards across America, our best middle school song winners from the DISD’s Barack Obama Male Leadership Academy have performed their winning rap song on Good Morning Texas amongst other venues and our best STEM and entrepreneurial winners star in our documentary.
It’s a wonderful opportunity for the students. When I discovered that a derogatory statement about my experience at the Eubanks School had been released, I was astounded and disappointed. I first read about it in a social media post posted by a former board member where he posted the entire letter from CISD, followed by his offensive, insulting and damaging commentary. I was disappointed in the letter that the CISD sent to every single parent about the contents of the folders which used vague wordage such as “inappropriate,” leaving it open to wild speculation and interpretation as to what had been put into the folders, and commenting that they had urgently removed them from the children’s desk. I was disappointed that the CISD acted as if I had not been forthright with them about what was in the folder since March, again in May and the day before the speech. I was horrified by the comments that the former board member was making on social media about me – and my daughter – which included calling me a “little actress,” and I was disappointed that we at Constituting America had disappointed some parents. Our intentions are always for the best interest of the students and never to disappoint a school.
What was in the folders? Since this is now being speculated across the nation, allow me to explain exactly what was in the folders and how the CISD always knew about it.
I launched Constituting America in 2010, after being inspired by the remarkably relevant Federalist Paper 62 by James Madison where he writes, “It is no avail to men to elect men of their own choice if the laws are so voluminous they can’t be read or so incoherent they can’t be understood.” I subsequently wrote 85 essays on the corresponding Federalist Papers, four essays on George Washington’s Farewell Address along with scores of other opinion editorials published in leading newspapers across the country. I have dedicated the past seven years to constitutional awareness, which has included two published books, a radio show, numerous television appearances, and speeches.
I met with Carroll ISD Superintendent Dr. Faltys, Janet McDade, and Chris Archer on March 22, 2017, to present a sample speech which included a folder with all of the materials that we pass out to students. I was excited when I was consequently booked last spring to speak at Eubanks Intermediary School in September. We promptly sent the teacher a sample folder with all of the same materials that would be given to the students on May 25, 2017, so that she could look at it and let us know if she wanted to change anything.
The morning before the speech, September 11, 600 of the same folders arrived for the students for the speech the next day. At no time did anyone, six months prior in March, four months prior in May, or the day before in September, ask me to remove any of the materials. If they had asked me to do so, I most certainly would have done it.
Constituting America’s goal was and is to please the school, the parents and the students, nothing more. We have no political agenda other than to share the multitude of ways the U.S. Constitution empowers the students. One such tool is the amendment process, and I tell them they are never too young to think of one and start a movement. The 27th amendment was started by an essay written by a 19-year-old student at the University of Texas, Gregory Watson. One way to inspire an amendment is with a petition.
Thus, we include in the folder, The Truth Act, a sample petition to show the students how easy it can be. It is mainly an acronym. It is not a petition we are actively pursuing. It is included as an example. We also include Constituting America’s corresponding eleven-page research paper discussing the bills of Congress from 1787 to the 1970s, which includes major legislation like Social Security. Fascinatingly and by coincidence, they were all under 30 pages which correspond with The Truth Act petition.
This research paper has been very interesting to the audiences of my 230 speeches to over 20,000 people. We have never heard a complaint. Our main focus has been to consistently present the Constitution as a non-partisan document and to never discuss politics, political agendas or political parties. I speak at great length about unity.
The Truth Act and the corresponding research paper are bi-partisan, never pointing a finger at one party over the other. In this respect, we at Constituting America have always believed that we were presenting everything in keeping with fairness and accuracy. Never would we want to present anything offensive.
If asked to do so, we most certainly would have instantly removed the 11-page research paper, which mentions, in the scope of one paragraph and in the confines of highlighting an example of a poor, voluminous and incoherent bill, the words “sexual trafficking” and “abortion.” Never would we want to expose a student to a word or words that are too complex, confusing and/or not suitable. We are currently reviewing the practice of including the research paper and are going to be more selective in the future.
Unity and community are the cornerstones of the American spirit. It is my hope that my community, which I treasure, will coalesce around the fact that all intentions were good. CISD and Eubanks Intermediary were trying to put on a fun and educational Constitution Day ceremony for their students and we at Constituting America were earnestly trying to deliver such an opportunity with no hidden agenda. We were trying to honor our country, the founding documents and the future generation of Americans.
Janine Turner is an Emmy and Golden Globe nominated actress best known for Northern Exposure and Friday Night Lights, an award winning director, a best-selling published author of two books, a speaker, columnist and frequent guest on news channels.
Editor’s Note: This piece was reprinted with permission from Townhall.com.