Have you ever had to stand up for something you believed in or had to stare down a bully? My parents did once and that experience shaped our family narrative. It made the Constitution feel intensely personal and very dear to us, but we are not the only ones. We want to share stories of five others who have inspired us with their love and knowledge of the Constitution and ask you to do the same. What does the Constitution mean to you? It seems like a perfect day to reflect. This article features 5 individual stories of people for whom Constitution Day really matters. On a related note, I find it lovely that September 17, Constitution Day, falls on a Sunday this year. I personally revere the Constitution as a sacred document and when I read it, I have the same feelings wash over me as when I study other holy texts. It felt appropriate to feature this occasion for our Sunday Edition article.
Read it before you need it:
I occasionally re-read my pocket constitution (patterned after the one Thomas Jefferson carried around). Not only do I love the words like I love poetry, but to my thinking if I am to uphold it as a citizen, I might want to know what it says. It seems like a fine idea for all of us to read it before we need it.
Constitution Day Story #1: Nurse Alex Wubbels
This idea of a citizen’s duty was on my mind as I watched the video of nurse Alex Wubbels hold the line to protect her patient’s rights against Salt Lake City police. To date, that video has provided a stark civics lesson to over 10 million viewers and I think Wubbels deserves a Citizen-of-the-Year award. While some people cite HIPPA rules as the violation, this was a much bigger and more basic issue of constitutional rights. Simply, a local or federal government does not have the right to draw your blood while you are in a coma. It’s called a warrant, folks, required by the 4th Amendment and part of the original Bill of Rights. The hospital’s policies were written to protect every patient’s fundamental rights, and it is admirable that this nurse stayed awake during her training.
On a personal level, watching it it begged the question: what would I have done? What if I had been in a similar situation but without the backing of a supervisor? Would I have had the presence of mind to realize that lines were crossed? I’m not a fighter by nature, and watching that episode gave me pause. Would I be confident enough to push back? I hope it doesn’t sound cliché to say if I had a pocket constitution on me, I might.
Constitution Day Story # 2: Hartley and Gaye Anderson
What I can say for certain because it happened–is that I am the daughter of people who stood up. And knowing that makes me want to be the same kind of person. Below is a video vignette about a time they stared down an institutional bully in defense of our family and livelihood. The video is entitled The Warrant. I wrote this story in my mom’s memoir Every Essential Element.
Constitution Day Highlight #3 – Khizr Kahn
A powerful speech by a Muslim father who lost a son serving our country inspired millions of us after the Democratic National Convention. You can watch it by clicking here, and at timestamp 3:40, Khizr Kahn holds up his pocket constitution and suggests that the opposing candidate read it. Regardless of how I might feel about any candidate in any election, this seems like the right basis from which to form political opinions. No particular group gets to corner the market on love of the Constitution. It protects all of us regardless of religion, political ideology, or background. We all get to love and hold it dear. All voters and candidates should look to it as our compass and guide. Indeed, if we are not citing it as our legal basis for an argument, then perhaps the legal argument should be checked.
I personally love this version of the pocket constitution above published because it also contains the Declaration of Independence and has great quotes from the Founding Fathers. But the document’s words are the same in any version and should guide and unite us all.
Constitution Day Story #4 – Bruce Anderson
Around the time my husband created the video above, I was talking with my brother Bruce about that episode with my parents and the warrant in my family. I appreciated hearing how his connection with the Constitution inspires him to teach a civics merit badge class to Boy Scout Troops. He told me he always leads with the question, “Where do our rights come from?” Bruce told me, “They usually think the right answer is from the Constitution, or ‘from the government.’” Bruce then guides a discussion centered on the words of the Declaration of Independence:
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness.
Bruce explains his feelings, “The words in the Declaration matter because if institutions can grant rights, they can take them away too. I believe acknowledging rights from our Creator gives us an even greater responsibility to respect, honor, and protect them.”
Constitution Day Story #5 – Bert Smith, founder of Smith & Edwards
Bert Smith passed away in 2016, at nearly 96 years old, but he worked until the day he died. Really, he worked that day. From the time he was 16, he was buying and selling items nobody else wanted–he picked up old cows down in the stockyards and he also bought a truck to deliver groceries. In an oral history interview he talked about saving his first $1,000 for a new truck. “In my opinion I had reached the pinnacle. I had been on such slim pickins until then and here I was, I had a new truck all paid for. Me, at 19. And the thousand dollars to buy it. I was a thousandaire. I clenched my fist and said, ‘The world is mine. I’m going to go get my share of it.’”
After serving in World War II, he made his first million when he bought and sold an entire city block’s worth of Navy mooring buoys. It took ten years to sell them off, one at a time, and it was an example of this advice on economics, “You just buy for one and sell for two. Never pay interest. Get right with the Lord and He will take care of you. It’s simple.”
Smith is best known for Smith & Edwards and his Nevada ranch, but he believed deeply in the constitutional rights that made an entrepreneurial story like his possible. He dedicated half of his life to promoting constitutional freedoms and encouraging people to read the document. He gave me my pocket Constitution.
We hope you enjoy his words in the video above, given in a Kiwanis Club talk in 2011. Smith says,”The foundation of liberty and freedom: The right to own private property. Unalienable rights to have the faith to dare to try. To buy. To sell. And the sacred right to fail.” He goes on, “Is the sacred right to fail a good right? It is one of the most important!”
I’d like to wrap up my thoughts on Constitution Day with the Declaration’s closing words:
And for the support of this declaration with a firm reliance on the protection of Divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our lives, our fortunes and our sacred honor.
The founders pledged all, and to my way of thinking, the least we could do is read their words. May I suggest taking a few minutes this Constitution Day to read it? Get a pocket constitution–or 100–by clicking here.
By Rhonda Lauritzen, founder and an author at Evalogue.Life, where we tell personal and family stories that inspire. (Let us help you tell yours!) Rhonda lives to hear and tell about people’s lives, especially the uncanny moments. She and her husband Milan restored an old Victorian in Ogden Utah and work together in Evalogue.Life, weaving family and business together.