If we all do a little, we can accomplish a lot

The American form of government depends upon a well-informed citizenry to ensure that our system will thrive and survive. While there are several organizations and projects we can support financially or give of our time, there is one program that stands out in my mind for its reach and effectiveness. The ISBA has long been a supporter of the Indiana Bar Foundation’s “We the People: The Citizen & the Constitution,” a program that educates elementary and secondary students about the contemporary relevance of the U.S. Constitution.

At the culminating event, a simulated congressional hearing, students “testify” before a panel of judges to demonstrate their knowledge of constitutional principles. Not only do students learn about the Constitution, but they also improve on their research, critical thinking, teamwork and public speaking skills. They have the opportunity to evaluate, take and defend positions on relevant historical and contemporary issues. First competing in district and state competitions, Indiana’s high school winner then has the opportunity to compete each year in the national finals in Washington, D.C., in April, oftentimes placing in the Top 10. It is the support our teen civic scholars receive from members of the State Bar that help them compete so admirably.

I had the good fortune to judge last year’s state competition held in Indianapolis. An elementary student and “We the People” participant summed up her experience and study of the Constitution with the following statement: “The most important thing I learned about the Constitution is all of the rights and freedoms that I have as a citizen. I also didn’t know that our Constitution was so important.” I marvel at the confidence and the depth of knowledge that even the younger students demonstrate.

Beyond the program’s worth, what I find truly astounding is the painless method by which we can all do our part to support it. The Bar Foundation has launched its 3rd annual “An Hour for Civics” fundraising campaign. To continue our support of the “We the People” program, we are asking attorneys to donate the equivalent of one billable hour to support civic education.

I recently attended a local bar meeting with our own Justice Steven David, who was the featured speaker. Justice David, in a different context, pointed out that our Association’s membership of more than 12,000 is a “division” in military terms. If we would each step up and write a check equal to one billable hour, we could make continuation and expansion of “We the People” possible on a scale that would make us all proud. It’s definitely worth saluting!

I encourage you to visit the campaign’s website today, www.anhourforcivics.org, to make your tax-deductible donation to support this irreplaceable civics program.

Indiana’s devotion to and passion for the “We the People” program is a shining example for the entire country, and yet I know how much is asked of each and every one of you. I know of the demands made upon our time and the litany of requests for donations we receive. Still, the civics programs of the Indiana Bar Foundation, and “We the People” in particular, are the mortar in the foundation of the society we all cherish. This kind of education is that important. Please join with me and participate in the Hour for Civics campaign, and if you want to reinvigorate your belief in the future of our system of government, stick your head into a hearing room at the state finals in Indianapolis next December.



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