“What’s funny is I have had four constitutional law classes between my undergrad and law degree and I think [my children] probably understand the essence of the document better than I ever did!” -Nathan M., lawyer and father
Here’s an email from the mother of our 9-10 year old division winner, Christian:
Thank you SO MUCH!
I have to tell you that Christian was so determined to prepare for this bee that he told all of his friends he couldn’t play for two weeks and even took his copy of the Constitution to school. He was obsessed! And it was all on his own without anyone needing to remind him, which as a mom was awesome to see!
Christian’s said for years that he thinks it might be his mission on earth to save the Constitution, and he plans to run for president someday :), but this was his chance to really, truly learn and understand the Constitution.
So really, thank you so, so much. Presenting this information in such an engaging and easy-to-learn way is just life-changing! Now it will be in his heart forever!
Is that inspiring or what!?! Posted below are the winning essays from each age group:
17-18 year olds:
In modern American society, government is often viewed as a “big brother” whose responsibility is to take care of the people, making decisions for our best interest. Is this how our founding fathers intended our nation to run, though? One of the most misused and misinterpreted parts of the Constitution, our country’s ruling document, is the General Welfare Clause, which states, “The Congress shall have power to provide for the common defense and general welfare.” When many lawmakers read this clause, they assume that it gives them power to make any laws which are good for the people (good laws are not always right). However, it is important for us as American citizens to clearly understand what this clause actually means so that we are not led astray by the smooth talk of power hungry politicians and fall prey to the tyranny of government. We, as the people of the United States, have established and authorized the government to act for us in certain matters, and we have the right to stand up for our freedoms when they are being taken away. You may ask, “what can the government do then, if they aren’t allowed to do whatever they want?” Government is only authorized to do things which are listed in the Constitution, specifically in Article 1, Section 8. These are the powers that were granted to the federal government by the people. According to the 10th amendment, those powers which are not granted in the Constitution are reserved to the states and the people. The basic idea from the General Welfare Clause and the 10th amendment is, “if it’s not listed, you can’t do it.” Sadly, though, many Congressman come up with this interpretation, “As long as it’s not prohibited, we can do it.” When government begins twisting the Constitution and taking powers that are not authorized by the people, the framework of our nation is weakened and the principles of self government are destroyed.
Katilyn R., California
15-16 year olds:
My favorite clause is the Necessary and Proper clause: “The Congress shall have power to make all laws which shall be Necessary and Proper for carrying into execution the foregoing powers.”(Article 1, Section 8, Clause 18)
This clause is so important today because it leaves to the people the right of self governance-the power to choose for themselves what is right. The Necessary and Proper clause also allows Congress to do their jobs as authorized by the people in the Constitution. It allows them to do those things which are necessary and proper in order to carry out the specifically listed powers in Article 1, Section 8.
The only problem, is that this clause is often misinterpreted. A nickname this clause has is ‘the elastic clause.’ Congress has stretched this clause like an elastic band to mean what they want it to mean. This would not happen if they would look to the second part of the clause: “for carrying into execution the foregoing powers.” Those seven words define the meaning of “necessary and proper.” It is a simple fix, but it needs to be done.
This is an extremely important clause in the Constitution, and is vital to the future of The United States of America.
-Nathan G., California
13-14 year olds:
My favorite clause is the General Welfare Clause. This clause is especially important to understand today because of the userpations by government based on the misinterpretation of this clause. The misinterpretation of the General Welfare clause is that Congress has power to do whatever it wants for its definition of the general welfare of the people. This is as absurd as assuming that a mechanic can do whatever repairs he wants on a car because the contract authorizes him to make repairs. As Jefferson said, “Congress has not unlimited powers to provide for the general welfare, . . . but only those specifically enumerated.” We, the people of the United States, have already decided for ourselves what is “general welfare,” and we have listed the powers we have given to Congress to promote it in Article I Section 8 Clauses 2-17. When we can recover the plain and precious truth of the general welfare clause — that the people, not the government, decide what how Congress can promote the general welfare — we will once again fully experience the freedoms fought for by our Founders.
-Chase M., Colorado
11-12 year olds:
My favorite clause is the Necessary and Proper clause: “The Congress shall have power… to make all laws which shall be necessary and proper for carrying into execution the foregoing powers,” found in Article I, Section 8, Clause 18. This clause was my favorite because the condition makes a very strong point: Congress can no more make a law that does not carry into execution the foregoing powers than a mechanic can cut a sunroof in your car if you authorized them to change out your brake pads and do things which are necessary and proper. However, Congress is justified in building a mint to coin money for the same reason that a mechanic is authorized to take off your wheel to access and replace your brake pads. It puts the people in charge of deciding what is right. Congress cannot make an unconstitutional law using this clause as justification unless they intentionally ignore the last 7 words that make up the condition for necessary and proper.
-Avery M., Colorado