Troop NM 1412, Trail Life & American Heritage Students, prepare for the Presentation of the Colors at the RPLA dinner Saturday at Cottonwood on the Greens. Pictured are, from left, Charlie Wolking, David Thornton, James Wolking, Elijah Dinkle, Felicity Dinkle, Jayden Muck and Juliette Wolking. Courtesy photo
Aspen Jaramillo sings ‘The Star Spangled Banner’ attended by Trail Life members,from left, James Wolking, Elijah Dinkle and Felicity Dinkle. Courtesy photo
Lisa Shin, Chair of the Republican Party of Los Alamos, opens the annual Constitution Day Dinner at Cottonwood on the Greens. Courtesy photo
BY JENNIFER MCKERLEY
The Republican Party of Los Alamos County (RPLA) hosted the annual Constitution Day Dinner Saturday, Oct. 14, at Cottonwood on the Greens, where attendees enjoyed a delicious taco bar.
The Los Alamos Federated Republican Women (LAFRW) sponsor the Constitution Day Essay Contest, and a special part of the dinner each year is hearing the students read their winning essays. Fall break trips prevented three of the winners from being able to attend the dinner, but their essays are published below. Emma Frost, a senior at Los Alamos High School, won $300 for her essay answering the question: How does the U.S. Constitution establish and maintain a culture of liberty? Grade school and middle school students were asked to write about their favorite signer of the U.S. Constitution and explain their choices. Brian Scott won $200 with his essay about James Madison. Two Barranca Elementary students, Layla Larsen and Zachary White, tied for first place for Grades 4-6, and each won $100. Zachary White wrote about Benjamin Franklin. Attendees at the dinner enjoyed hearing Layla Larsen read her winning essay about George Washington.
Tara Beam, one of featured speakers, spoke on “The Moral Conditions of Freedom: Parental Rights and Duties in the American Founding.” Tara holds a master’s degree in politics from Hillsdale College. She helped found the Estancia Valley Classical Academy (EVCA) in Moriarty. She stressed the importance of marriage, family and faith in the social structure of a country and that marriage and rearing children are part of the pursuit of happiness. Parental rights and duties to nurture, teach and guide their children come from natural law, which comes from God. Beam stated that morality and faith are necessary for good governance.
David Vandenberg’s topic was “The Pitfalls of Parental Rights Arguments.” David is a staff attorney with the Eighth Texas Court of Appeals in El Paso and the President-Elect of the Texas Association of Appellate Court Attorneys. He stated that natural laws are rights endowed by God and based on truth. Courts and governments make wrong decisions when they ignore natural laws, those things that people know innately are true or false. He also spoke about constitutional governance and how the structure of government defined in the Constitution preserves our liberties.
Layla Larsen, a sixth grader at Barranca Elementary, reads her winning essay for Grades 4-6. LAFRW presented her with a check for $100. Courtesy photo
Brian Scott, a seventh grader at the Middle School, won $200. Courtesy photo
Tara Beam, one of the featured speakers, spoke on ‘The Moral Conditions of Freedom: Parental Rights and Duties in the American Founding’. Courtesy photo
David Vandenberg, also a featured speaker, addressed the topic of ‘The Pitfalls of Parental Rights Arguments’. Courtesy photo
Attendees at the 2023 Constitution Day Dinner at Cottonwood on the Greens. Courtesy photo
James Madison, Father of the Constitution
BY BRIAN SCOTT
Los Alamos Middle School
In 1787, a group of 55 men met in Philadelphia to revise the Articles of Confederation. One of those men, James Madison, knew that the Articles needed to be replaced, so he came to the convention with a plan for a completely new form of government. Madison is considered the “Father of the Constitution” because the Constitution is based on his plan and because he played a pivotal role in convincing the nation to ratify it.
At the Constitutional Convention, James Madison presented a plan called the Virginia Plan. This plan introduced principles such as Federalism, bicameralism, separation of powers, and checks and balances. It created the basic framework of the Constitution. Madison came up with this system after years of research on political philosophy. He believed that this plan would provide the best chance of a republican government being successful because it prevented any one person from having too much power. Unlike the Articles of Confederation, this system gave the federal government enough power to be effective while still giving the states power as well.
After the Constitution was written, the next step was to get the states to ratify it. In order to do that, Madison, John Jay, and Alexander Hamilton worked together to write a series of essays called the Federalist Papers. These essays were written to convince the states to support the Constitution. After the 85th essay was published, New Hampshire, New York, and Virginia ratified the Constitution and it went into effect in 1788.
Even though the Constitution was ratified, a group called the Anti-Federalists thought that the Constitution would not protect their individual freedoms. They wanted a Bill of Rights. Madison didn’t think a Bill of Rights was necessary. He was convinced to support the idea because he wanted the whole country to be unified in support of the new government. Madison wrote 10 amendments that stated the basic rights of every American, such as freedom of speech, press, and religion. These ten amendments are known as the Bill of Rights. As a member of Congress he presented the Bill of Rights in June of 1789, the year after the Constitution was ratified. The Bill of Rights was passed eight years after he first presented it.
James Madison was one of the most important people who signed the Constitution. His contributions helped create and ratify a new form of government. Without him, the Convention might not have been successful, and America would not be what it is today.
The Federalist Society. (2022, January 26). Madison and the Fight for the Constitution. YouTube. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=R3Mgiv3eK71&t=630s
Bill of Rights Institute. James Madison and the Bill of Rights. https://billofrightsinstitute.org/essays/james-madison-and-the-bill-of-rights
BY LAYLA LARSEN
Barranca Mesa Elementary School
George Washington was a true patriot, hero, and founding father of our great land of freedom. He knew he didn’t want to live under Great Britain’s control and believed that democracy was a better way to live. He wanted people to have the be free to vote, and not be ruled by a King. George Washington had a very specific vision for what he wanted this land to become even if it led to war. He knew what needed to be done to conquer his vision which allowed for the creation of the United States and is the reason why I chose him as my favorite signer of the U.S. Constitution.
George Washington was extremely passionate about gaining independence from Britain that he served as a General in the Revolutionary War. He led thousands of men into battle. He was an inspiring and true leader standing, shoulder to shoulder with all of his men, ready to die for what they believed in.
Another reason why he was a great leader was his ability to motivate his men through the harsh weather of Valley Forge. With no support, clothing, or food his men were ready to give up but General Washington didn’t let them. He worked hard to make sure his men were taken care of and supported which allowed them to make it through the winter and ultimately prepared them for the victory at Yorktown. This was an important battle that led to our independence from Great Britain and a major win for General Washington’s great vision.
In my perspective, if George Washington never stood up for what he believed, I do not think the United States of America would exist. I’m extremely grateful for George Washington’s dedication and perseverance in seeing his vision through. We wouldn’t have our great land of liberty without him. I love our country, our freedom, and George Washington!
How does the U.S. Constitution establish and maintain a culture of liberty?
BY EMMA FROST
Los Alamos High School
When considering what liberties I enjoy, my mind first draws a blank. This isn’t because I lack freedom, but in fact the contrary – it is because our constitution, government, citizens and military have worked for centuries to create a life so full of liberties that it is difficult to fathom a world without them. When establishing the constitution, our Americans had been pushed to a point of fighting valiantly for autonomy at the expense of their own security; yet both autonomy and security are fundamental human desires. Historically, people have either given up autonomy for protection by a prince, a king or an emperor – despite the harsh conditions imposed by monarchy, or they have rebelled against that authority with a low chance of survival – sacrificing their security and life. Until the founding of our nation, no country has had a system to provide both freedom and safety simultaneously.
Our solution was a focus on the people, not the rulers. Our country can provide both autonomy and safety because we the people determine how the country runs (allowing us autonomy), with the exchange of confidence that the leaders we choose will protect us (security). In just the past five years, our nation and our world have faced numerous threats including: a global pandemic, the Taliban takeover of Afghanistan, the Ukraine/Russian war, countless natural disasters, and advancements of technology significantly in the field of AI. In this recent half-decade, the U.S. has faced political, cultural, environmental, and social changes. unfathomable to our founding fathers when they established the constitution 234 years ago. And yet the constitution survives, continuing to serve the United States, maintaining our culture of liberty. How? Because in the face of negativity, our amendments allow us to change for the better. Four of these amendments give us specifically the voice of liberty.
Voting, a right guaranteed by our constitution and one that allows us to exercise our autonomy, is also a right historically denied to many. The fifteenth, nineteenth and twenty sixth amendments were formative in moving our nation towards a culture of greater liberty by extending the right to vote to people of all races, to women, and to younger individuals, respectively. These amendments allowed for our electoral system to become increasingly inclusive and thereby our nation to become even more of a guarantor of universal liberty.
Throughout high school I have participated in iVOTE, a politically unbiased club focused on increasing political engagement. We foster civic responsibility amongst the younger generation and involve the community in politics. In its original state, the constitution, without amendments, would have rendered every club member unable to engage in federal politics. We are all under the age of 21, we are both men and women, and we hail from a variety of racial backgrounds. Without constitutional amendments, these factors beyond our control would have prevented us from actively engaging in the very system that provides us our liberty.
Furthermore, the first amendment, easily arguably the most important one, allows me not only to be a voice of change but also a voice of reason. Total freedom includes the ability to criticize wrongdoings. How can a country support its people and move along as a society if its own citizens are not allowed to speak up about their issues and provide a voice of change? Around the globe, protest and speaking out against a government can result in imprisonment or even death. We can only progress if we allow ourselves to believe that there are things that need to be changed, and if we are allowed to speak freely to this change without sacrificing our liberty. Constitutional amendments guarantee that.
The constitution was the blueprint of our country, the amendments allow us to ensure that the liberty intended by the founding fathers exists securely for all of us.
BY ZACHARY WHITE
Barranca Mesa Elementary School
Fifty-six men signed the Declaration of Independence. Thirty-nine signed the United States Constitution. Only SIX signed both: Roger Sherman, George Clymer, Robert Morris, James Wilson, George Read, and Benjamin Franklin. Benjamin Franklin is my favorite signer!
First, I have a lot in common with Ben Franklin. We are both left-handed. We are at the youngest end of our families – Ben was 15 of 17. I have twin brothers three years older than I. Having older siblings led both Ben and me to learn quickly to stand up for ourselves. We are curious, readers, talkers, musicians, creative, and have a smart-aleck sense of humor. Neither Ben nor I like wasting time: as he wrote in Poor Richard’s Almanack, “A stitch in time saves nine.” We all know the story of Ben, his kite, and lightning, but did you know he named Gulf Stream, invented bifocals, and sowed the seeds for the Philadelphia Library, the University of Pennsylvania, and Pennsylvania Hospital? Furthermore, he served as Postmaster, a Representative to the Pennsylvania Assembly, and even convinced the British Parliament to repeal the Stamp Act.
He was the oldest and maybe the wisest man to work toward creating the USA. He was known for saying, “We must all hang together, or most assuredly we shall all hang separately.” He helped to convince the French to join the colonists in the fight for independence against England. During the drafting of the Constitution, 81 year-old Ben told funny stories to help resolve conflicts and keep people calm. He held great hope for our new country and is regarded by history as an American hero. If only there were a wrinkle in time so I could meet Benjamin Franklin, I’d let his JOLT electrify me to a long life of invention and service like his. He’s my man!
Fradin, Dennis Brindell. John O’Brien, Illustrator. Who Was Ben Franklin? New York: Grosset & Dunlap, 2002. (I highly recommend this book to anyone interested.)
Poor Richards’ Almanack. https://lib.uchicago.edu
“Top myths about the Constitution on Constitution Day.” https://constitutioncenter.org, Blog Post, September 17, 2023.