Kids trying to get U.S. Constitution on money

Monday, December 10, 2001

By Heather Kronmueller ~ Southeast Missourian

Most 13-year-olds spend their time trying to catch the attention of members of the opposite sex.

But for a group of middle school kids in Ashland, Va., being typical is tedious. They're too busy trying to catch the attention of congressmen, legislators and news media from all across the country.

The kids, from Liberty Middle School, are trying to get a bill passed that will place an abridged U.S. Constitution on the back of U.S. paper currency.

"It's a phenomenal idea," said Clay England, a seventh-grader at LMS. "I love it. It can teach people so much. Can you imagine reading the constitution with 'In God We Trust' above it?"

Started in 1997

The idea for the Liberty Bill, as it is called in the U.S. House of Representatives and in the Senate, began in 1997.

Every year LMS seventh-grade civics teacher Randy Wright had his students memorize and recite the abridged version of the U.S. Constitution in class.

"One night I thought of the idea to put it on the back of the currency so that everyone, all over the world, could read it," Wright said, "and when I told the kids, they jumped all over it."

Wright said the first thing they had to do was get a member of Congress to hear their plan.

So the students went to work developing speeches and elaborate presentations detailing the reasons why the Constitution should be placed on the back of currency.

And in four years their reasons haven't changed.

They say the Liberty Bill would cost $500,000 to design and implement, but would save the country $500 million per year by eliminating expensive federal programs designed to promote the American system and philosophy of government around the world. The bill doesn't specify any denomination, but Wright thinks the abridged Constitution would be most effective on the $1 bill.

"There are more than seven billion $1 bills outside America," Wright said. "We want to let the people of the world who are oppressed and impoverished to know how our government works."

The students have taken their case all the way to Washington, where they spoke in front of the House Domestic and Monetary Policy, Technology and Economic Growth Subcommittee.

In the Liberty Bill's short history, the students have made several radio and television appearances, including a spot on the CBS Evening News and Good Morning America; spoken before Virginia congressmen and delegates; and even passed out flyers at James Madison University.

They also gave their presentation to the deputy assistant of legislative affairs to the president at the White House.

Expanded over the years

Wright said the project started in his class but has expanded over the years to include kids from all over the school.

"Only five or six kids can go to give the actual presentations," he said. "But they can all memorize the Constitution and recite it."

Eighth-grader Kari Roth, who was one of the White House speakers, said even though she's out of the seventh grade she still works on the project almost every day by writing letters to newspapers and television stations.

She said working on the bill is just too exciting not to get involved.

Although Wright would love for more students to be able to help in the future, he hopes it gets passed soon.

"We were on the front or middle burner with the subcommittee," he said. "We would have gotten a vote in September, but then Sept. 11 happened.

"The committee we were dealing with is the same committee that's in charge of finding bin Laden's money and stopping it. I'd like to think we'll be back on in January or February."

335-6611, extension 128

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