"What we need is an informed patriotism. . . " - President Ronald Reagan
In the fall of 2000 I had the opportunity to volunteer in a friend's political campaign. I learned a lot about campaigning, debates, speeches, how voters think, etc. It was a wonderful learning experience, and my friend got re-elected as our State Representative!
Then I got to observe the 77th Texas Legislature session during Spring of 2001 - it was quite an eye-opener! I learned how a bill goes through the legislative process from start to finish. The thing that totally blew me away was that a bill doesn't pass on its own inherent merit - it passes on who you know and how well you can sell it, which is very frustrating to me. My favorite part was listening to the committee hearings, weighing each individual bill - it was a lot of fun to analyze a bill and try to forsee all the possible ways it could affect our society.
Right now I'm working in our primary campaign, and it's about three full-time jobs rolled into one! (Which is why this webpage probably won't be updated again until after March or November!)
There are all sorts of things you take for granted until you're actually doing them. (You know all those political signs that just "appear" on the side of the road? FYI, they don't just magically appear. . . incidentally, did you know that every city in our district has a different sign ordinance? Each city has different size limits on signs, and different dates that you can put them out, and different dates that they MUST be taken up by. That's just one of the many details that have to be addressed on a regular basis around my office!)
I really think the most inspiring thing about seeing politics up close is realizing that we as individuals CAN make a difference. And I know that sounds like some corny campaigning line. However, it really is true. If we take the time to realize how the system works, and who is voting the way we believe, (and who isn't!) and let them know what we think, it makes a huge difference. We can make the most difference during campaign time. If we will get out there and support the people who have the same convictions we do, we can change who is up in our Capitol making the decisions.
All right, I'm getting off my soapbox.
One of the highlights of last session was a bill Representative Rick Green passed, appropriately called HB 1776, which designates the last week of September - the anniversary of the passage of the Bill of Rights by Congress - as Celebrate Freedom Week. During this week, all social studies classes in Texas dedicate their study to the Founding Documents and the Founding Fathers, including specific deliberation on the 56 words of the Declaration of Independence which proclaim our rights and credit their origin.
When we passed this bill back in May, we obviously had no idea the events of September 11th would occur several weeks before the first Celebrate Freedom Week. After 9-11, teachers all across Texas contacted our office, telling us how they had observed Celebrate Freedom Week in their local schools, and what an excellent opportunity it was for them to express their patriotism, especially considering the current events.
Original Intent by David Barton - THE definitive work on Separation of Church and State. It does an excellent job of providing historical background and proof of our founding fathers' intentions for the First Amendment. It's available at Wallbuilders. Incidentally, I highly recommend anything written by David Barton, he has an excellent grasp of our country's early history and how to apply it to our current policy issues.
Along those same lines, here is a brief article explaining our Founder's position on "Separation of Church and State". It contains some of the highlights found in Original Intent.
The Federalist Papers - written to try to urge the colonies to ratify the Constitution, it explores its strengths and weaknesses in depth, and is a great help in understanding why our forefathers framed it in the manner they did.
Constitutional Law by Michael Farris Okay, so not everyone will enjoy reading this book. But if you have an interest in our current judicial system, this book is an invaluable help in understanding how the Supreme Court thinks, why it rules the way it rules, where it began to depart from strict interpretation of the Constitution, etc. I really love it because it is so clear-cut and precise, like mathematics (only when they actually follow the Constitution, of course). I especially appreciate this book because it looks at the courts from a biblical perspective. Michael Farris is a lawyer with HSLDA (Home School Legal Defense Association) and has actually argued cases before the Supreme Court, so he has first-hand experience with what he teaches.
The Torch of Freedom Foundation was recently founded to help educate young people about the principles our country was established upon, and to encourage them to get involved in current public policy issues.
In March 2001, the Foundation hosted a dinner featuring Ambassador Alan Keyes, which I was privileged to attend. Check out their website for details, under "Events", there is a link to an article about it.
One of the things I'm most excited about is the 'Patriot Academy' we are planning on doing next year. For a whole week students will work through a mock legislature, and learn with a hands on basis how the government works. Check out the details at Patriot Academy .