On this Constitution Day, millennials can learn about the founding document and the history leading to its ratification without looking at an endless number of pages.
Thanks to Constitutional Soundbites, a shortened consolidated, book—developed by constitutional lawyer David Shestokas—children, teenagers, and young adults can learn about the founding and structure of today’s American government through an easy-to-read, question-and-answer format. An audiobook version is a work in progress.
Shestokas’ book appeals to the limited attention span of today’s teenagers and young adults. Tying together the nation’s three founding works—the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, and the Bill of Rights—the book “delivers several messages through its 150 short answers and stories that are formatted for folks comfortable with blogposts and tweets,” Shestokas said.
One message is a subtle rebuttal of the frequent reference to the Founders as ‘rich old white guys.’
“Another message comes from the 140 references to the Declaration of Independence in the book. The values and philosophy of the Declaration are woven into the fabric of the Constitution and Bill of Rights, and Constitutional Sound Bites demonstrates this throughout,” the lawyer said.
Shestokas was motivated to develop Constitutional Soundbites after giving a presentation at a high school where not only the students, but also the teachers, did not know when the Declaration of Independence was signed. “I started out asking what year the country was founded and the first answer I got was 1700. The next answer was 1800. After zeroing in on 1776, I asked: ‘What day?’ After some incorrect guesses from the class I finally mentioned hot dogs, parades, and fireworks and got the Fourth of July,” he said.
“That evening, I resolved to do what I could. I started guest writing online on the Constitution, then my own website, then a three-year radio show. The radio show gave birth to the book. Along the way I’ve discovered while there’s an ignorance, it’s in contrast to the existence of a desire for this knowledge. The heritage and philosophies that these documents reflect are what should bind us together as Americans.”
He added, “Despite the efforts of those seeking to slice and dice us into so many identity groups for their own purposes, people naturally wish to come together over things they have in common. So, while there’s ignorance, which seems to have been purposefully promoted, it’s not that the young generation doesn’t care. It’s that older generations have failed in passing along our common heritage that is not black, white, brown, Republican, Democrat, liberal or conservative, but American.”
The project has been ongoing since Shestokas first started law school. “When it comes to the practice of law, it is of note that about 70 percent of the Bill of Rights addresses matters of criminal justice,” he said. “The greatest power of government is to take someone’s life, liberty or property, so there are constitutional questions almost everyday in a criminal court room. So, I’ve been studying, explaining and working with the Constitution for over 45 years.”