August 29, 2008
WASHINGTON , AUG. 29, 2008-An exhaustive, line-by-line guide to the U.S. Constitution will be in the hands of students at 185 high schools in the Atlanta metropolitan area this fall, thanks to a gift from a local group affiliated with The Heritage Foundation, one of the nation's leading think tanks.
The Atlanta Committee for Heritage, made up of 15 business and civic leaders, this week donated The Heritage Guide to the Constitution to each of 117 public high schools and 68 private high schools in Atlanta and 10 surrounding counties.
Giving copies of the 475-page book to the schools was the brainchild of Dr. John McNair, a Fayetteville radiologist. He and his wife, Gail, both members of the committee, offered the seed money to make the idea reality.
"We have a heritage, and unfortunately we tend to forget that heritage," Dr. McNair says. "The Constitution is the most important government document we have. I thought, 'How can we get this book out to the community, and in particular to students?' "
The Atlanta Committee for Heritage donated the book (cover price: $35) to public and private high schools in Atlanta and the counties of Cherokee, Clayton, Cobb, DeKalb, Douglas, Fayette, Forsyth, Fulton, Gwinnett and Henry.
The Atlanta activists "believe this book is a valuable resource that should be made available to all students studying the Constitution," Dr. McNair writes in a personalized letter to each school's librarian, enclosed with the book. "We hope that your students find The Heritage Guide to the Constitution to be useful, thorough and enlightening."
Edwin Meese III, attorney general during the Reagan administration and now chairman of The Heritage Foundation's Center for Legal and Judicial Studies, supervised development of the acclaimed reference work, first published in 2005. No fewer than 108 leading constitutional scholars contributed to its clause-by-clause analysis and commentary on the meaning of the nation's most important document.
The McNairs themselves are the parents of three children. Other members of the civic group whose financial contributions made the donations possible:
The Heritage Guide to the Constitution examines every aspect of the 221-year-old founding document, from the Preamble right through the 26 amendments. The book's editors were Matthew Spalding, director of Heritage's B. Kenneth Simon Center for American Studies, and David Forte, professor of law at Cleveland State University in Ohio. Their assembly of legal experts drew on authoritative sources ranging from the Federalist Papers to Supreme Court Justice Joseph Story's 1833 classic, "Commentaries on the Constitution of the United States."
Dr. McNair says the idea to donate the book to schools came out of his "tremendous respect" for Meese and Spalding -- and for their book as a resource for learning not only about the Constitution but "the men who wrote it."
"This was an opportunity to put out factual information, steeped in history, about what's in the Constitution and how it came about," Dr. McNair says. "Who better to tell the story than Mr. Meese and Mr. Spalding?"
Educating Americans about their nation's founding principles is a primary mission of The Heritage Foundation, which -- with more than 350,000 individual, foundation and corporate donors -- is the most broadly supported public policy research institute in the country.
Heritage was founded in 1973 to uphold the principles of free enterprise, limited government, individual liberty, traditional values and a strong national defense. It currently has a staff of 220 and an annual budget exceeding $60 million.
The Atlanta Committee for Heritage is one of nine "community committees" formed since 2005 across the nation by supporters of the think tank who desire to help promote conservative ideals and policies. Other groups are in Chicago, Dallas-Fort Worth, Minneapolis-St. Paul, New York, Omaha, Neb., and Tucson, Ariz., as well as Colorado and Southern California.