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What Does the Constitution Mean to You?
WHAT DOES THE CONSTITUTION MEAN TO YOU? Debating the Document That’s Shaped Our Country
15-year-old Heidi (played by Schreck in the original production) as she gives her speech and talks about the Constitution. At other times,
Most teenagers are more interested in hanging out with their friends and listening to the next cool band than diving into the United States Constitution. But that’s exactly how some students have been spending their mornings, afternoons, and evenings: studying and preparing to debate their peers all over the nation about the contents of the 200-year-old document. Their motivation? Prestige, honor, and thousands of dollars of scholarship money. Sponsored by the American Legion, these constitutional debates were started in 1938 with the intent to “develop deeper knowledge and appreciation for the U.S. Constitution among high school students,” according to the Legion’s website. In the process of writing the speeches they’ll debate, students under 20 learn the history of U.S. laws and develop a better understanding of the rights and privileges of American citizenship. The legion offers up over $188,000 annually in scholarship money to debate winners. For one of those winners, in addition to helping pay her way through college, the debate experience also provided fodder for a Broadway play. In “What the Constitution Means to Me,” playwright and actor Heidi Schreck recounts her experience of debating the Constitution in American Legion halls all over the U.S. In the largely autobiographical play, theatergoers get to see the experience through the eyes of
viewers see the grown-up Schreck reflect on the evolution of the Constitution’s meaning over the years and how her debate experiences shaped her understanding of what it means to live under the rules of this governing document.
For Heidi Schreck, as well as for hundreds of other debaters, developing a
close relationship with the Constitution helped pay her way through college and gave her a better understanding of the principles our country was built on. This month is a great time to take a look at the document that shaped our country’s past
and continues to shape its future.
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