It was a simple idea with long arms and legs. It came to eighth grade teacher, Randy Wright in Ashland, Virginia during a night time dream. He related it to his students who agreed to take it forward as part of their civics class.
They took the concept in early 1998 to their members of Congress who promptly introduced bills to make their proposal happen.
Look at your one dollar bill. On the backside there is an eagle and a large green pyramid with the eye over it. Mr. Wright and his students thought that replacing this strange design with an abridged version of the United States Constitution encompassing the entire Preamble and a brief description of each of the seven Articles and each of the twenty-seven Amendments would serve many educational purposes.
They called it the Liberty Dollar Bill and the legislation to require the U.S. Mint to change the design was called the Liberty Bill.
Soon over 100 members of the House and Senate signed on, with the two Senators and Representative from Virginia leading the way. There were public hearings in the Senate and the House in subsequent years, with the students as the featured witnesses. They received national press coverage in newspapers, TV and radio. Praise poured in from The Military Order of the Purple Heart to the Wall Street Journal and the Veterans of Foreign Wars. Letters, E-mails, telephone calls came from all over the country in response to the students' constant publicity efforts in successive classes which even took them to the White House.
Randy Wright imagines seven billion one-dollar bills exchanging hands every day here and abroad with "the ideas of freedom of speech, freedom of religion, freedom of the press, the right to assembly peaceably, no cruel and unusual punishment, due process, abolition of slavery, women's suffrage and other ideals of freedom and democracy" printed on this currency. One can expect billions of conversations and some debates arising from this constructive use of space. People might be prodded to become more active on this or that issue. They might strive to hold their elected and appointed officials to these ideals in practice, not just in the latter's rhetoric.
Other interactions can be envisioned. When police try to order you out of a public park while you are petitioning your government, show the constables what is on that dollar bill in your pocket. A good number of these dollar bills would be framed on walls or used as paper weights.
Who knows what else?
Well, seven years have passed and still no Liberty Bill has been passed, not even as a needed amendment to the infamous Patriot Act.
Who is against this idea? No one is exactly mobilizing to block this bill? But behind the scenes it seems that the U.S. Treasury Department is not enthusiastic about redesigning the one-dollar bill, as it does periodically for larger denominations. Counterfeiters are not much interested in dollar bills. It is not the cost - about half a million dollars for the whole job. Yes, the vending machine industry is cool to the proposal for obvious reasons. And some people want to get rid of the one dollar bill in favor of a dollar coin.
The students are puzzled - some are now in college and treasure their experiences lobbying and educating for the legislation. Some say it got them more interested in politics and government.
So too is Randy Wright perplexed about the stall. When asked recently, he replied, "I'm shaking my head. I don't really know. I think politicians in DC just don't see how this could truly make a positive difference. I wish I knew the answer as to moving things forward."
Folks, you can make the difference. This ought to be an easy win on Capitol Hill. Go to the website www.libertydollarbill.org for action advice, updates on sponsors and sense the fervor of the students.
Then write that letter or E-mail your two Senators and Representative to ask when they are coming on board. Also copy your letter to send around to local citizen groups and officials and post it on some websites that agree with you and are ready to support your efforts.
You can call Mr. Wright at the Liberty School Road at 804-365-8060 or write him at 13496 Liberty School Road, Ashland, Virginia 23005. We can make this project happen.