Matt Grocott

A little over a month ago, one of the Daily Journal readers wrote a letter to the paper and, in his final sentence, challenged me to read the U.S. Constitution. In a subsequent column, I offered for him to write again and point out the article or section he wished for me to review. I wasn’t sure if he thought I should read the whole Constitution or if he had a particular part in mind. He never responded. Maybe he doesn’t read the Journal as often as I thought or he had no particular point to make.

Jon Levinson is not the only reader to challenge what my knowledge of the Constitution is. In fact, there was another person who wrote a few weeks ago to question if I really had three copies and whether I’d ever gone to them for reference. I find these challenges strangely humorous because I deeply respect our Constitution. It is, after all, the contract between us and our government.

Reflecting back on when my interest in the U.S. Constitution was first piqued, I was in high school. A class on the Constitution, taught by the school’s dean, was offered and I signed up for it. I remember Mr. Kibbe, peering at us from beneath his thick and wild eyebrows, barking out challenging questions across the large oak table we all sat around. “Grocott, why did they find the Articles of Confederation too weak for the country’s purposes?” As a body of young, impressionable students, we were eager to learn from the master.

Unfortunately, after being so inspiringly introduced to the Constitution by Mr. Kibbe, I allowed other interests and concerns, typical of a young man, to bury the flame: sports, other school subjects, studying architecture in college, wrestling in college — not to mention an attempt at a social life. Fortunately, some time in my mid-30s, I came across a book browsing through Borders: “The Theme is Freedom,” by M. Stanton Evans.

Reading the words written by Mr. Evans reignited the fire I had allowed to die to mere embers. From that point forward, I sought out and bought other books on the subject. Books like, “A Leap in the Dark,” by John Ferling; “The 5000 Year Leap,” by W. Cleon Skousen; “Empire of Liberty,” by Gordon S. Wood; and “”Miracle in Philadelphia,” by Catherine Drinker Bowen. To this day, I continue to gather books on the U.S. Constitution because I find the stories fascinating about how and why the Framers wrote what they did. Of course, one can simply read the Constitution itself but to know the back stories gives a much deeper understanding of the intents and purposes of those who wrote it.

While our U.S. Constitution is a wonderfully written document, displaying a genius and inspiration never before imagined, it does have one inherent weakness: It cannot stand on its own. Ultimately, it is merely words on a page. To stand, it requires an active and informed citizenry. That is why, if there were one wish I could make come true, it would be for every American to have a deep love and respect for our Constitution. Further, that those feelings would inspire them to become more familiar with it, then to study it more intimately, and finally — to have a firm understanding of each article, section and amendment.

Sadly, the number of us who can and will stand in defense of the Constitution wanes with each passing year. In part, this is because it is not taught in any meaningful way in our schools. Secondly, it is because of how little new citizens are expected to know and understand it.

Not helping the situation are two moves by the Biden administration which reversed actions implemented by former President Trump.

During Trump’s presidency, he had directed that more extensive study material be given to those seeking citizenship. In tandem with that action, the test was revised to be twice the number of questions, from 10 to 20. One of the many executive orders signed by Joe Biden in his first week in office was to go back to the old, lesser material used under the Obama administration.

Secondly, president Trump had created an advisory “1776 Commission.” The stated goal was “to produce a report summarizing the principles of the American founding and how those principles have shaped our country.” His hope was that the report would lead to curriculum that could then be used in our schools to teach students about our country’s heritage. However, when Joe Biden and Kamala Harris came into office, the whole project was scrapped.

Well, I know wishes are powerless but words can inspire. Hopefully this column inspires you — in defense of liberty — to read, study and know our beautiful Constitution.

A former member of the San Carlos City Council and mayor, Matt Grocott has been involved in political policy on the Peninsula for 17 years. He can be reached by email at mattgrocott@comcast.net.

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(9) comments

Tafhdyd

Mr. Grocott,

Do you really believe that the purpose of increasing the citizenship test questions from 10 to 20 was to make new citizens better informed our country? Anyone who has followed the actions of Trump before and during his presidency can see that the sole purpose is to further restrict the ability of non English speaking immigrants to become citizens. Sources say that some of the questions had wording changed to phrases not easily translated to other languages with the purpose of confusing the test taker. It might be important to recognize that even under the ten question test studies have shown that about 30% of home grown and english speaking Americans can’t pass the test. Maybe we should educate our own before impeding others.

Dirk van Ulden

Taffy - as a poll worker for many years I found it insulting that many voters could not even understand or read basic English. How they passed the citizenship exam is a mystery to me. You would never be able to pull that off in any other country, including Mexico or the Netherlands. We are way to accommodating and don't think that our language is the key to assimilation. Perhaps that is by design? If one is not fluent in a country's language one is likely destined to remain a member of the underclass, an objective that the Democratic Party appears to encourage. That is where many of their voters are.

Rel

Mr. Grocott's treatise on the Constitution was well presented until he could not resist taking a political swipe against Biden without counterbalancing it with Trump. Mr. Grocott's love of the Constitution has yet evoked any consternation about the events on 1/6 and Trump's role in it. Until then, his words remain hollow.

Ray Fowler

Maybe the First Amendment gives Matt the choice to take a swipe at one elected official but refrain from commenting on someone else? Just saying...

DavidKristofferson

Well put, Rei. What is Mr. Grocutt’s response to the events of January 6th as well as Trump’s phone call to Georgia’s election officials? The silence on this point is deafening and makes his support of the Constitution insincere. I agree with him that the creation of our country and our form of government was an extremely significant event in human history, but reverence for the Constitution is clearly in conflict with supporting the behavior of our past president.

DavidKristofferson

And I should add to my previous comment that, since the Daily Journal has given Mr. Grocutt the megaphone of writing a column, his reply should come in a full-fledged opinion piece condemning The attempted subversion of the Constitution, not simply in a response here that only a small number of people will see.

Wilfred Fernandez Jr

Mr. Grocott,

A thoughtful piece, written about thoughtful men. Well done!

I add my thanks to Mr. Holman whose social studies class was the only I would not cut.

Matt Grocott

You make a very lucid point Newell. And it seems you were alluding to the fact also that the California state constitution is too easily amended and has been, giving rise to its length and complexity. Thank you for adding to the discussion.

Newell Post

Reading the US constitution is fairly easy, except for some bits of 18th century language that aren't commonly understood today. Try reading the California constitution some time. It's over 40,000 words long, about the same length as many novellas. Every public official in California swears an oath to uphold and defend the constitution of California. But I have yet to talk to one who has actually read it and understands it, in full. One of the wise things the framers did is to make it possible but very difficult to amend the US constitution.

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