2015 2nd Annual Scholarship Winners
In 2015, applicants rewrote the Preamble to the U.S. Constitution and then explained their rationale in their essay submissions. Again, students could include examples from their own lives or from U.S. history.
This year’s promotion garnered submissions from several new high schools from throughout Chicagoland and even a few from Attorney Richardson’s high school alma mater. Thank you to everyone who again helped promote this effort to give back.
Grand-Prize Scholarship, Matthew Houck, Maine South High School
PREABLE: We, a diverse collection of citizens united through an indestructible bond, for the betterment of our great nation, to uphold the morals we hold dear, to defend our own, and to preserve for ourselves and our children the freedom that we have worked so hard to achieve, create this Constitution to preside over our United States of America.
Many have argued that The United States Constitution is the most important document in our nation’s storied history. The document remains relevant in a world that is nearly unrecognizable from the time it was written. Through over two centuries since our nation’s founding, the Constitution has endured. It has stood the test of time. This speaks to the strong national pride, tradition, and respect the Constitution commands.
Given all of its historic importance and profound eloquence, the Constitution is a difficult work to rewrite. Written by some of the most brilliant and thoughtful men in our nation’s history, putting my own spin on it was quite challenging. What I sought to accomplish was to take the general concepts and ideals in the Preamble and update the language. I ended up incorporating some of my own interpretations in this rewritten Preamble. The Preamble is general, but also succinct, and packs literary and argumentative punch. Each of its goals is distinct and compelling. My rewrite models this approach, but with a modern perspective that allowed me to observe the effects of the Constitution many years after the fact. For two years, I have studied Constitutional issues in my high school curriculum. Analysis of multiple Supreme Court cases has given me a wider perspective on applications of the Constitution, ones that the founders could not foresee.
By writing “We the People,” the founders were speaking for the entire populace of the United States, or at least those who could vote. At the time, that excluded many demographics, for example, women and minorities. In an attempt to include these groups, my update reads “We, a diverse collection of citizens united through an indestructible bond,” Because America truly is a collection of people from all walks of life and of all nationalities and cultures, I consider this an improvement. What binds us together as Americans, is the freedom we all share.
The idea of belonging to a special community - being a citizen of the United States - is the inspiration for the rest of my rewritten Preamble. In writing “for the betterment of our great nation, to uphold the morals we hold dear, to defend our own,” I attempted to convey nationalism, pride and fellowship.
Lastly, I captured the original intent of the Framers when I stated that this document will be written “to preserve for ourselves and our children the freedom that we have worked so hard to achieve.”
The Constitution has effectively presided over the country for so long because of its broad themes of equality and justice. I made no attempt to alter these principles, only update and expound upon them.
First Runner-Up, Megan Aquadro, Libertyville High School
PREAMBLE: We, as members of America, our divine country, have the responsibility to be amenable citizens in obliging to the intentions of our founding fathers. It is to them and the Constitution that we must credit every good thing about this nation as they meticulously crafted it with only good intentions for America not only to succeed, but to thrive.
The purpose of the preamble to the U.S. Constitution is to introduce the principles which are stated in the Constitution. The Constitution is essentially an outline for our government, and our founding fathers carefully crafted the Constitution so that it would best reflect American virtues and make everyone feel happy and secure. Every part of the Constitution displays some form of American virtue designed to appease every citizen and his or her values, and to handle every issue to infect America. The sole reason American has thrived is because of the Constitution and American citizens’ obligation to living by it.
To start my preamble, I addressed everyone as belonging to a country that is divine. The purpose of this was to unite and humble everyone, and to make them feel grateful to live in America. I continued on to play on the loyalty and good nature of citizens in that our founding fathers crafted the Constitution for our benefit and the benefit of our country as a whole. The larger picture of my preamble is that the Constitution was crafted with the best intentions in mind and every detail was ironed out to ensure that it was the best. This country has provided so much for everyone and that is thanks to our founding fathers. So, it is our American duty to respect their wishes in obliging to the values stated in the Constitution.
Everything about the Constitution, and the preamble, is aimed at making our nation the best it can be for everyone. It is not biased toward a certain religion, gender, ethnicity, etc. It is fair and treats all citizens as equals. An example of the fairness of the Constitution is the law-making standards. To accommodate larger states and smaller states and make our country more equal, there are two separate bodies, the House of Representatives and the Senate. Our founding fathers split the entire legislative branch in half so that Congress would be fair and all of the states would feel equal. This dedication to every citizen and every issue is displayed throughout the Constitution. It exemplifies the fact that our founding fathers did not create the Constitution lightly, it was carefully crafted to address everything in the best way possible and for that, we owe it to them to follow it as closely as possible.
The distinction between American thriving rather than succeeding was asserted with the intentions of emphasizing that the founding fathers led our country to be the best it possibly could be rather than simply surviving. Their intentions went way beyond allowing America to function and extended as far as resulting in American being one of the world’s leading nations. It is these standards by which we need to reflect back upon the Constitution they crafted for us. We need to not only follow the Constitution but live by it and everything for which it stands.
Honorable Mention, Christopher Annis, Wheaton North High School
PREAMBLE: We the People of the United States, in order to establish a representative government, maintain order and security, promote equality, enshrine the right to vote, and protect the natural rights of all, do establish the Constitution of the United States of America.
It is probably best to begin this essay by establishing that I have rewritten the preamble as if I was tasked with creating a preamble to the modern Constitution and its many amendments, using commonly accepted modern definitions and connotations of words. Thus I avoid anachronistic definitions of the words like “people” (which modern scholars contend referred to white Christian landowning men, not all members of the human race, as we believe it does today), and also presents me with an actual reason to change the preamble, which I find does a perfectly fine job of introducing the first seven articles of the Constitution it originally preceded.
I was loath to part with “We the People” as the beginning of the preamble. There are no three words in the English language that better represent the purpose and will of a democracy than “We the People”, and thus the phrase stays. I also seriously considered keeping “in order to form a more perfect union”, as the original Constitution was designed to do exactly that: remedy the failures of the Articles of Confederation and create a functioning government. But from a modern perspective, the purpose of the initial seven articles of the Constitution is to establish a representative government, and so “in order to form a more perfect union” becomes “in order to establish a representative government”. Creating and maintaining order and stability was one of the primary purposes of the initial seven articles of the Constitution, so “maintain order and security” seemed a natural follow up.
I decided to disregard the content of the subsequent lines of the preamble in favor of lines that acknowledge the drastic differences between the original Constitution and the document we have today, as the addition of the Bill of Rights and the subsequent amendments shifted the focus of the Constitution from solely setting up a system of government to also providing for the protection of the rights of citizens.
With the passage of the 13th, 14th, 15th, 19th, and to some extent the 24th and 26th amendments, promoting equality became a clear goal of the Constitution, and the 15th, 17th, 23rd, 24th, and 26th granted universal suffrage to citizens over the age of 18, thus contributing the lines “promote equality” and “enshrine the right to vote”. “Protect the natural rights of all” is the summation of the protections granted by the amendments, from freedom of speech and religion to due process to protection from cruel and unusual punishment, and thus is by far the most important revision to the preamble, as it reflects the changes the Constitution has undergone in the more than 200 years since its creation.
Honorable Mention, Jake Ritthamel, Maine South High School
PREAMBLE: This Constitution defines us. We are citizens of our state, yet we are members of a bigger society. We are a glorious union of various beliefs and customs. Disparity of class and color separate us, yet our political culture transcends beyond any meticulous rift. Freedom. Equality. Justice. We, as Americans, stand in solidarity. We have power. We are democracy.
I believe it’s extremely important to recognize the power of the people in American politics. With a lackluster 50 percent voter turnout next to every election, it’s evident that “we the people” are disconnected with our government. As gridlock stalls Congress, creating a budget is handled as if we’re trying to pass a new constitution.
Let’s face it, the Antifederalists and Federalists couldn’t come to an agreement. Ever. Sometimes you’ve got to throw in the towel and compromise. I think our 226 year old Constitution shows how bargaining works out sometimes, Tea Party.
I’m not blaming them, though. They’re representing the people who elected them. Does this mean our society is intrinsically polarized? No. It means that only the people who care—surprisingly, far-left and far-right citizens—vote. According to a Gallup poll taken March 6-9, 44 percent of Americans identify as Republican and 42 percent as Democrats (including “leaners”). As independents made up the majority, a whopping 44 percent, it should only be logical to assume that the “bloc” ideology of both political parties is not supported by a plurality of American voters.
The conclusion is that citizens aren’t engaged because they don’t feel as though they make an impact. Our Constitution is a great source to encourage civic engagement, yet we fail to highlight the positive aspects of our political system. Districts are gerrymandered to the point that a conservative would never win in Cook County. Attack ads focus on a politician’s past instead of their agenda. Local politics are completely ignored unless a radical referendum surfaces.
We must remind ourselves that our Constitution is structured in a way that gives authority to the citizen: without legitimacy, Congress would be deemed inappropriate and our government would be dissolved. The moral code established in the Declaration of Independence, voicing grievances and transmitting self-governance, is reverberated through each branch of government aligned by our Founding Fathers. From our First Amendment rights to our eligibility to hold office, democracy is truly derived from the people. This ideal is something that I believe Americans lose sight of.
In fact, we treat elections today much like how the South treated Lincoln’s election. If we do not have direct representation of our beliefs, we rebel and detach. What happened to our Federalist 10 ideology of factions? To Madison, though extensive backlash was threatening, development of factions assured representation indirectly. If your candidate did not win, there was a high probability that another from across the nation shared your thoughts. Not to mention, elections aren’t the only place to be heard: from interest groups to protesting, our government is filled with media of involvement.
It’s time that we start remembering the purpose of our Constitution: to symbolize, to organize, and to inspire us. Our Preamble, though acknowledging the adversity ahead, echoes the sentiment of unity in our great nation. Jefferson believed that a new constitution should be drafted every 25 years for that very reason. I contend that we redraft ourselves, instead.