Bob McWhirter's Bill of Rights book featured at the State Bar 2015 Convention #azbarcon

Bob McWhirter’s Bill of Rights book featured at the State Bar 2015 Convention #azbarcon

When Bob McWhirter writes an article or book, I’m inclined to want to read it (or to be the editor who gets to publish it!).

His latest work—an illustrated history of the Bill of Rights—has captivated readers and even won a design award.

(Go here for the paperback version, or here for the hard-cover version.)

But reading his work only offers a glimmer of the joy Bob takes in excavating history. For that, you have to see him be interviewed. A recent PBS Horizon program offers that chance.

Here is Bob being interviewed by Horizon host Ted Simons. Ted was clearly charmed by Bob and his book; he even chuckled when Bob inadvertently used the word “pissed” on the otherwise-buttoned-down program.

Screen-grab of Bob McWhirter on AZ PBS's Horizon.

Screen-grab of Bob McWhirter on AZ PBS’s Horizon.

And after you watch that, you can read an op-ed Bob penned for the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. In it, he explores (as he does in his book and in previous articles for Arizona Attorney Magazine), the close connection between guns and race in American history and current events.

Screen-grab of Bob McWhirter and interviewer Ted Simons on AZ PBS's Horizon.

Screen-grab of Bob McWhirter and interviewer Ted Simons on AZ PBS’s Horizon.

The Bill of Rights, illustrated and elucidated in a new book by Bob McWhirter and published by the American Bar Association.

The Bill of Rights, illustrated and elucidated in a new book by Bob McWhirter and published by the American Bar Association.

For years now, we at Arizona Attorney Magazine have been big fans of Bob McWhirter’s legal history and scholarship. He has published many of his “illustrated histories” in our pages—and that even led to a book, now published by the American Bar Association. (I wrote about it here.)

Now, we’ve learned that his book—the cover, specifically—has won an esteemed award. It received honors from Graphic Design USA in its American Inhouse Design Awards.

No wonder: The cover is beautifully done, a worthy and accurate preview of the visually complex volume that comes behind it. Congratulations!

(Buy the book? Sure you can! Go here for the paperback version, or here for the hard-cover version.)

In other Bob news, you can watch a video interview with him and the Legal Broadcast Network. As you listen to the dialogue, I think you’ll understand how infectious is his love for legal history.

Bills, Quills and Stills book cover honored with a national design award.

Bills, Quills and Stills book cover honored with a national design award.

And you can also watch a preview of a “CLE Snippet” video I taped with Bob. (The complete video, which costs money but gives you CLE, is here.)

Ties that bind: Bob McWhirter, left, and Arizona Attorney Editor Tim Eigo (me!) after taping of a "CLE Snippet" on Bob's Second Amendment article.

Ties that bind: Bob McWhirter, left, and Arizona Attorney Editor Tim Eigo (me!) after taping of a “CLE Snippet” on Bob’s Second Amendment article.

Most recently, we ran a two-part article by Bob on the topic of the Second Amendment. That yielded a robust series of letters to the editor in the magazine, as well as this online commentary.

What were your thoughts on Bob’s article, or on his visual approach to history generally? Write to me at arizona.attorney@azbar.org.

Among those featured in tonight's Bill of Rights Comedy Concert will be (L to R) Chris Bliss, Dick Gregory, Lewis Black, Cristela Alonzo, Ahmed Ahmed, Tom Smothers, and John Fugelsang.

Among those featured in tonight’s Bill of Rights Comedy Concert will be (L to R) Chris Bliss, Dick Gregory, Lewis Black, Cristela Alonzo, Ahmed Ahmed, Tom Smothers, and John Fugelsang.

A quick item today urging you to enjoy some free expression to its most hilarious extent. “Let Freedom Laugh!” Bill of Rights Comedy Concert debuts tonight. It is headlined by Lewis Black, who will be accompanied by Dick Gregory and Tom Smothers; rising stars Cristela Alonzo, Ahmed Ahmed, and John Fugelsang; and special appearances by Sarah Silverman, Wanda Sykes, and Penn Jillette. The event will be telecast on AXS TV (more detail below), and it is the brainchild of Chris Bliss and MyBillofRights.org. Yes, the same people who brought that stunning Bill of Rights Monument to downtown Phoenix. Not only did Arizona get the first monument (slated to be installed in every one of the 50 state capitals). We also witnessed the organization’s first comedy event, held at Phoenix Symphony Hall back in May 2012. The newest and most recent concert was shot at the Warner Theatre in Washington, D.C. Interested in how and when to watch it on your own TV or device tonight? Go here for more information for your location. Celebrating the Bill of Rights may never have been as hilarious as this.

Sixth Amendment monolith unveiled by then-Chief Justice Rebecca White Berch, December 15, 2012.

Sixth Amendment monolith unveiled by then-Chief Justice Rebecca White Berch, December 15, 2012.

I'll admit it: I have a problem with the Constitution ... I have too many. Pocket Constitution

I’ll admit it: I have a problem with the Constitution … I have too many.

How many constitutions do you own?

Well, if you run a puppet regime somewhere, “at least one” may be your answer. But what I’m talking about are those super-handy little pocket constitutions. The ones that reprint the entire U.S. Constitution and Bill of Rights, and maybe even more historic information.

I’ll get to my own collection in a moment. For now, I must say that I was surprised that anyone has traced the history of that pocket-sized document. But we can thank Slate writer Betsy Woodruff for ferreting out the information. Here’s how she opens her article:

“Forget apple pie. Forget the Statue of Liberty, Chuck Norris, Daisy Dukes, cowboy boots, and hot dogs on the Fourth of July. The most American thing that has ever existed landed on my desk a few weeks ago in an unsolicited mailing from a libertarian-leaning think tank: a snappy new Cato Institute pocket Constitution, one of millions printed since the booklets first started streaming off printing presses decades ago.”

You really should read the whole thing here.

When you cover a legal beat, you come across—or are handed—a lot of these books—which may be why I never gave the thing much thought.

At the top of this post is a photo with a few of the constitutions that make up my collection. But when I located six more in one drawer alone, I decided to stop looking. At least, I think that’s what the Framers would have done.

How about you? Do you have one or more of these legalistic books? Do you have a favorite, maybe because it includes colonial trivia?

Take a picture and send it my way (arizona.attorney@azbar.org), plus a sentence of why you like it and/or if you generally carry it. I’ll share it with the rest of us out here in the Colonies.

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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