RetakeOurGov Enduring Constitution Editorial

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The following editorial appeared in the March 11, 2012 edition of the Livingston Daily Press and Argus.  It was written by Mr. Rich Perlberg, General Manager and Executive Editor of the Livingston Daily Press and Argus.  

RetakeOurGov was honored to have Mr. Perlberg as one of our distinguished judges for our "Enduring Constitution" scholarship competition.  This scholarship competition was co-hosted by RetakeOurGov and Americans for Prosperity and was open to all Livingston County High School Seniors.

While Tea Party groups and the "media" may sometimes not see eye to eye, this scholarship competition was a great example of citizens with diverse points of view, coming together to celebrate our Constitution and our next generation of leaders.

In closing, the quote that Mr. Perlberg referenced at the conclusion of his editorial is also a favorite of quite a few in the Tea Party.  The quote from Patrick Henry, "The Constitution is not an instrument for the government to restrain the people," said Henry. "It is an instrument for the people to restrain its government."

This quote eloquently states why we at RetakeOurGov and Americans for Prosperity cherish our Constitution.

 

Rich Perlberg: Students showcase civics smarts

Last summer, my wife and I took a weeklong car vacation en route to picking up my son K.C., who was completing a six-week internship at the office of U.S. Rep. Mike Rogers, R-Brighton.

Along the way, we stopped at Boston and Philadelphia before arriving in Washington, D.C. It was a great opportunity to visit the historic sites that tell much of the great story of our nation's founding.

While participating in tours and viewing the locations where our history was written, I was once again reminded how much I wished I had paid better attention to American history when I was in high school and college.

Last Sunday, I got a chance to meet three high school students who surely won't share that regret. They were the finalists in The Enduring Competition, an essay competition sponsored by RetakeOurGov, which is a Livingston County "tea party" organization, and Americans for Prosperity, which describes itself as a grass-roots organization that advocates for limited government and economic freedom.

Brighton High School senior Tommy Stevenson was awarded the $1,500 first prize, and his classmate Harrison Jones took home $500 for third place. Second place when to Daniel Negri, a homeschooled student from Hamburg Township.

These are bright, accomplished young men with promising futures. They are reasons to be optimistic about the next generation of leaders.

Stevenson plans to study biology at either the University of Michigan or Hope College; Negri hasn't chosen a college yet, but he's looking at becoming a lawyer or a journalist and perhaps getting into politics; Jones, who is the high school representative on the Brighton school board, is looking to study international relations at either Michigan or Valparaiso University in Indiana.

Last Sunday, the three received their checks at a short ceremony in the second-floor courtroom of the historical Livingston County Courthouse in downtown Howell.

The competition required an essay of between 1,500 and 2,000 words that centered on whether the U.S. Constitution should be interpreted as a "living" or an "enduring" document.

The three honored Sunday were among 51 entries from throughout Livingston County. Of those, eight were selected as finalists and turned over to a five-person judging panel for the final scoring.

I served on that panel along with Sheryl James, a Brighton-based Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist and author; Stephen Henninger, a Howell High School graduate who is a sophomore in the James Madison College at Michigan State University; Scott Hagerstrom, Michigan director of Americans for Prosperity; and Justice Brian Zahra, who was appointed last year to the Michigan Supreme Court.

Genoa Township resident Glenn Nelson did a great job organizing the contest and keeping the judges on deadline.

The essays that made the final cut consistently rejected the idea of judicial manipulation of the law and made sound cases for relying on original intent with rare changes made through the amendment process.

That must have pleased Zahra who, in his brief remarks at the presentation, made it clear where he stands.

"If a judge's first priority is on doing good, the decision won't be based on the Constitution," he said, "but on the empathy toward the person before the court."

Zahra is far from an unsympathetic man. He just thinks it is up to the legislatures and not the courts to write the law. Otherwise, he said, not only is the intent of the Constitution subverted, but the delicate and historical balance of power shifts unfavorably toward the bench.

Zahra was troubled that President Barack Obama once said he looked for judges who can empathize with someone who is poor or disabled or African-American or old or gay. Zahra prefers a judge who rules on "the framers' intent, not what the justice feels is a good outcome."

There is room to quibble on this, of course. When the Founding Fathers got together, there were no blacks, slaves, women or outwardly gay men in the room. The poor weren't represented either. The white male founders were generally well-heeled property owners. Some of the property they owned was other human beings.

The Constitution clearly would have looked different had its authors represented all the people living in America at the time.

That's an argument for another day. There was another, comforting theme that was common throughout the essays. These students clearly grasped the value of a government that is ruled by law, not by men — a point made in one of the essays by what is now my favorite Patrick Henry quote.

"The Constitution is not an instrument for the government to restrain the people," said Henry. "It is an instrument for the people to restrain its government."

Rich Perlberg is general manager and executive editor of the Livingston County Daily Press & Argus. You can reach him at (517) 552-2810 or at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .

View slide show from Scholarship Awards Ceremony.

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