Chris Bliss speaks at the dedication of the nation's first capitol-city Bill of Rights Monument, Dec. 15, 2012

Chris Bliss speaks at the dedication of the nation’s first capitol-city Bill of Rights Monument, Dec. 15, 2012

In the current Arizona Attorney Magazine, I took the opportunity to channel our inner James Madison. Who wouldn’t like to do that?

The occasion was my editor’s letter in which I praised the recent dedication of a Bill of Rights Monument in Phoenix. (detail is here).

It was an impressive event, as was the concept itself. I’m still stunned at the commitment and success of Chris Bliss, Executive Director of mybillofrights.org.

So in case you missed it, here is my own riff on one of this nation’s most important documents. And tell me: How you would have transformed the Bill of Rights? Write to me at arizona.attorney@azbar.org. And have a great weekend.

Here is my column:

There are few events for which Arizonans will stand in the drizzle. We may be a hardy people, but precipitation strains our resolve.

In December, the presence of a light rain simply added to the noteworthy nature of a historic and well-attended event: the dedication of the nation’s first capitol-city monument to the Bill of Rights.

Congratulations to organizer Chris Bliss, generous Arizona lawyers, legislative leaders and others who made the limestone monoliths a reality.

Our Last Word this month includes the eloquent remarks by Phoenix Mayor Greg Stanton that day (more background and photos are here and here).

In honor of the achievement, I offer—à la the Bill of Rights itself—10 ways that the ceremony and the accomplishment impress:

I. The Weather shall make no drizzle that keeps a committed People from their celebration of a unique Bill of Rights, as they enjoy gathering, assembling, speaking and sharing space with chilly members of the Press.

II. A well-organized Program, being necessary to the success of an early-morning event, the right of a cold and coffee-deprived people to be exhilarated by concepts of liberty, shall not be infringed.

III. No Speaker did, without the at-least-grudging consent of the assembled People, go on and on in a Tyrannical manner or in a style proscribed by Common Sense.

IV. The right of the People to be reassured that their elected leaders of all Parties support and defend liberty shall not be violated.

V. No monument to our own Bill of Rights shall be relegated to a back corner of our State’s Capitol plaza, but shall be given a place of Prominence and Respect, where viewers may appreciate the Liberties espoused, sited hard against a monument to brave servicepeople who paid the ultimate sacrifice in defense of those liberties.

VI. In the development of public Monuments, Arizonans shall enjoy the right to a speedy and public process, yielding an awe-inspiring setting achieved through the impartial efforts of many people, and with the assistance of Counsel—Arizona attorneys who stepped up in amazing ways.

VII. In Monuments to which we have grown accustomed, where the cost has skyrocketed beyond Imagining, the right of the People to have a Monument erected with the expenditure of no Public Monies, at a modest cost and with a noteworthy portion of donated contributions, shall be preserved.

VIII. Excessive verbiage or sponsor names shall not be required, nor excessive ornaments imposed, for the simple words of the Bill of Rights are sufficient, and the sculptor’s stunning simplicity of vision shall foreclose the possible infliction on succeeding Generations of a cruel and unusual Artifice.

IX. The enumeration in this Monument of certain rights arose as the vision of a single man, who brought humor, drive and equanimity to the challenge of delivering a limestone embodiment to the people of Arizona, and in the process helped present what may be the best comedy concert fund-raiser in the history of these United States.

X. The power of this dedication Ceremony shall remind all present or hereafter standing in silent appreciation of the Monoliths that these rights, like the final word of the Bill of Rights, reside in and end with “the People.”

Arizona Attorney Magazine Editor Letter Feb 2013 Bill of Rights

In the February issue of Arizona Attorney, we will publish remarks delivered by Phoenix Mayor Greg Stanton at the dedication of the nation’s first Bill of Rights Monument.

Phoenix Mayor Greg Stanton speaks at Bill of Rights Monument dedication, Dec. 15, 2012

Phoenix Mayor Greg Stanton speaks at Bill of Rights Monument dedication, Dec. 15, 2012

One of the reasons is that over the past year, we’ve covered the run-up to the monument, so it’s great to let you know the monoliths are finally in the ground.

But the bigger reason is that his words were well chosen and rather inspiring. Of course, you may disagree. But that’s the thing about inspiration: One listener’s wow is another’s woe.

Here is some of what the Mayor said:

“We risk shortchanging ourselves and posterity when we regard the Constitution as a closed book from which no further new insight is possible. Our flexible foundation for interpreting the Constitution has made our great country the strongest and oldest continuous democracy in the world.”

“The Founders’ genius lies not in a pretension to clairvoyant understanding of their thoughts at the time the Constitution was drafted. It lies in the Founders’ intent that we would apply common-sense understanding of whom We the People are, our shared history, and our shared aspirations. The Constitution is not a dead text that we mechanically recite. It is a mirror in which our better selves are reflected.”

“These stone monuments commemorating the Bill of Rights are magnificent. They are a fitting memorial for the real thing. But the real thing is not a stone. The real thing is a living Constitution that gives hope to the United States and the rest of the world, for today and the future.”

Ninth Amendment monolith unveiled by Phoenix Mayor Greg Stanton

Ninth Amendment monolith unveiled by Phoenix Mayor Greg Stanton

His words came to mind the other day as I read a blog post by lawyer Melinda Hightower. In it, she provided three videos that “help you rediscover your passion for law.”

Her selections are inspired, but you and I may have selected differently. She anticipates that when she asks her readers to offer their own favorite speeches. OK, I thought; let me think about it.

My first inclination was to watch a clip from My Cousin Vinny. (I know: It’s a cry for help.) But I suspect she meant a speech on a more serious plane. So although they were more recent and did not influence my decision to go to law school, I offer two. The first, recent, one is Mayor Stanton’s remarks.

The second speech is one that was uttered by Morris Dees, lawyer and co-founder of the Southern Poverty Law Center. He delivered the McCormick Lecture at UA Law School recently, but I point you to “Morris Dees: With Justice for All,” the video version of a speech he delivered at Grinnell College. Here it is.

So let me repeat Melinda Hightower’s excellent question: “What speeches have inspired you to pursue your interest in law?” What speeches would you recommend to others?

Gov. Jan Brewer as she unveils the Tenth Amendment monolith at the Arizona Bill of Rights dedication ceremony, Dec. 15, 2012 (photo: Arizona Attorney, Tim Eigo)

Gov. Jan Brewer as she unveils the Tenth Amendment monolith at the Arizona Bill of Rights dedication ceremony, Dec. 15, 2012 (photo: Arizona Attorney, Tim Eigo)

 On this Change of Venue Friday, I invite you to look at some photos (below) from last Saturday’s Bill of Rights Monument dedication in Phoenix. (I’ve covered this quite a bit; see here for more background.)

And here is an Arizona Republic story on the dedication day.

Congratulations again to Chris Bliss, who spearheaded this effort on behalf of his organization.

More photos are on the Arizona Attorney Magazine Facebook page.

Have a great weekend.

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Arizona Bill of Rights posterIf you heard a loud rumbling throughout November, it may have been the sound of liberty.

Over at the State Capitol in Phoenix, the ground was prepared and limestone monoliths began to arrive on the site of what will be the nation’s first capitol-city monument to the Bill of Rights.

I’ve written about the topic before (here and here, for example), and November has been an incredibly busy month for the project and its Executive Director, Chris Bliss. Let me tell you a little about what’s going on, and point out that the effort is thiiiiis close to its financial goal. I’m sure Chris would agree that the next rumbling sound he’d like to hear is you reaching for your wallet.

For all the Bill of Rights have done for us, it’s the least we can do. When those monoliths are finally placed on Wesley Bolin Plaza, I’m confident we’ll all come together to agree, “Those courageous founding fathers had some stones.”

Anyhoo, one thing you should be sure to see is E.J. Montini’s Arizona Republic column on the monument or, as he calls it, “Arizona’s Monument to Compromise.” Wisely, the columnist quotes Bliss, whom I call “the most quotable limestone monument organizer in America.” As Chris says:

“Those 10 amendments to the Constitution are like our marriage vows. If we could put a monument to them in each state capitol we could have a powerful daily reminder of what should be guiding us forward.”

And here is where the project is as we enter the home stretch, as reported by Bliss himself:

Nov. 5: As of last week, we are within $25,000 of fully funding America’s 1st monument of the Bill of Rights, at the Arizona Capitol. This last $25,000 gift was given as a matching challenge grant for that amount, good from now through December 15th. Help us make history for future generations, and double the impact of your gift.

Arizona Bill of Rights monoliths November 2012

As of November 12: All ten monoliths have been completed, and we now expect to make our target dedication date of December 15—Bill of Rights Day.

Nov. 14: Executive Director Chris Bliss poses for the obligatory ground breaking photo on the site of the soon-to-be first monument of the Bill of Rights, across the street from the Arizona Capitol complex.

Bill of Rights Chris Bliss Nov 2012

A man, a plan, a shovel: Chris Bliss breaks ground, Nov. 14, 2012.

Nov. 19: Incredible work from lead designer Joseph Kincannon and project manager Holly Kincannon. Joseph and Holly poured their talent and passion into every detail; from the shapes, sizes, site layout and landscaping right down to the font choice and layout of the words on each amendment monolith. The monoliths ship from Kincannon Studios tomorrow morning! (November 20)

Nov. 21: The latest photo from the site (below), courtesy of our project manager Jeff Esgar of Sundt Construction, who’s put together a terrific team. The monoliths will be brought in and placed by crane on December 4th. The front trench is where the electrical for the individual spotlights for the monoliths will be located.

Arizona Bill of Rights site preparation, November 2012

Thanks, Chris. I couldn’t have said it better myself. I am looking forward to December 15, Dedication Day. I’ll share more details when I get them.

In the meantime, follow the project on Facebook, and read all the details (and donate) on the website.

Finally, enjoy a brief video, which has the comic Lewis Black explaining “why he supports MyBillofRights.org.”

MyBillofRights.org executive director Chris Bliss

Chris Bliss

I have passed on quite a bit of news regarding the Bill of Rights Monument. When it’s installed in Phoenix, it will be the first capitol-city monument in the nation dedicated to those important documents.

This month, I heard from Chris Bliss, executive director of MyBillofRights.org. He provides an update—and photos:

“Thanks to the success of the Phoenix Comedy Festival and contributions of donors like you, we’ve raised over $120,000 since April. This means that fabrication and sculpting of the 10 Amendment Monoliths is now fully funded—a major milestone in our drive to bring America’s 1st Monument of the Bill of Rights to the Arizona Capitol.

“I’ve attached some images of the work in progress. The photos don’t do it justice, as being up close with the monoliths is an unexpectedly personal experience. You find yourself drawn toward each stone, pulled in by its contoured shaping and textured surfaces. And this is even before the text inscriptions have been added!

“Amendments III, IV, and V should be inscribed by mid-July. Work on the next grouping, the monoliths for Amendments I, II, and X, begins this week. The final four monoliths (Amendments VI, VII, VIII, and IX) will follow by summer’s end, with all 10 expected to be completed by the end of October.

“Now all that remains is for us to fund the installation and the state’s one-time maintenance fee, a total of $150,000 to $175,000 (depending on contingencies). I will keep you informed on our progress toward that goal, as well as some new “crowdsourcing” options on our website for harnessing the power of social media that should be ready soon.

“Thanks again for your generous support for the Bill of Rights Monument at the Arizona Capitol.”

Here are the photos:

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Happy Change of Venue Friday.

I have mentioned this comedy gig to you a few times. An impressive lineup of comics is slated to perform this Sunday at Phoenix Symphony Hall, all to benefit a Bill of Rights Monument.

Step up, I told you. Play your part, I said. Buy a ticket, I urged.

So this past week, I finally got around to purchasing a few tickets for myself (no, you cynics, no free tickets come our way for stories we covered in Arizona Attorney Magazine; we’re not that kind of publication!). And to my surprise, I was to be located in the second-to-last row.

(I then engaged the Ticketmaster-bot in a game of cat and mouse, over and over, until I managed to move forward—about three rows. Definitely worth my time!)

So it would appear that tickets are selling and people have gotten the message. And no, not just from me. There’s this little publication called the Arizona Republic that’s spilled some ink on behalf of the concert. You can read a recent piece here.

Here’s one last chance to buy a ticket. You may be willing to spend a few more bucks than I was, so your seating results may vary. But click, buy, and laugh. See you on Sunday.

Laugh along with Tom and all the Founding Fathers (on Mother’s Day!)

If you’re feeling the need to laugh (and who isn’t), a comedy concert may be just the ticket.

I’ve written before about the Phoenix Comedy Festival that is slated as a fundraiser for a first-in-the-nation Bill of Rights Monument. But today’s about the comedy, not the limestone slabs.

So before you do anything else, you may want to click here to purchase Comedy Festival tickets.

If you read my story on the Monument in the May Arizona Attorney Magazine (here’s hoping), then you may have been troubled that the link didn’t work. Apparently, Ticketmaster changed things around, or something. But none of that matters now, because you have the correct link. (See what I did there; I put the link in AGAIN, so you couldn’t miss it.)

And while you’re at it, I’ve learned that there is a more direct way to get to the page where you can donate for the Monument (and even specify the amendment you most support!). That link is here, on the MyBillofRights website.

So here’s hoping I see you on May 13. That is also Mother’s Day, so either we’re bringing our moms, or we have a lot of explaining to do. So while you’re at it, maybe you should buy two tickets. (It’s the least we can do for the hardest-working Bill of Rights ever!)

And because I like to support good writing (and not just limestone monoliths), here is an Arizona Republic column on the topic by E.J. Montini. Funny, funny stuff.

Let’s get laughing. It’s the patriotic thing to do.

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