“A provocative extension of Jefferson’s original plan.”—Kirkus Reviews
Thomas Jefferson believed that every generation of Americans should rewrite our Constitution from scratch—to mirror the progress of the human mind and, most of all, to maintain the revolutionary spirit. He would be dismayed that it’s considered untouchable these days. Taking up Jefferson’s cause, Christopher Phillips leads a motley group of Americans across the fruited plain in an offbeat Constitutional Convention. His Constitution Café project is sparking a much-needed conversation about our founding document and forging common ground at a time when our country needs it most.
Is the U.S. Constitution a work-in-progress or an unchangeable "product of divine inspiration"? Thomas Jefferson, a believer in a participatory democracy, thought it was the mark of a healthy society to make changes to the constitution every generation. Taking his cue from our third president, Phillips (Socrates Caf ) embarks on a yearlong mission to engage Americans in conversations about how they would rewrite the Constitution. He meets with entrepreneurs and undocumented workers, congressmen and prison inmates, Boy Scouts and Tea Partiers asking each group to rewrite an article or amendment to the Constitution relevant to them. Journalists debate freedom of the press and Wiki Leaks; congressional staffers hold forth on presidential pardons; and in a particularly poignant conversation, junior high school victims of the foreclosure crisis now living in resettlement shelters with their families create an amendment addressing inheritance and redistribution of income. An engaging and informative narrator, Phillips intersperses the modern-day conversations with Jefferson's thoughts about the issues under discussion and the founding fathers' own disagreements as they framed the Constitution. In an era of hyper-partisanship, it's refreshing to read instances of Americans from all political persuasions holding rational, respectful and thought-provoking conversations with one another.