FAS Presentation Video from NCLS Meeting
View the presentation online here. The FAS Program comes in at approximately the 11:30 mark.
On the morning of August 19, 2005, at the annual meeting of the National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL) in Seattle, five nine- and ten-year olds from a First Amendment School in Columbia, South Carolina gave a keynote presentation to some of the 7,000 or so state legislators attending the conference.
NCSL had convened policymakers from across all fifty states with the theme, “Strong States, Strong Nation.” On Wednesday, Bill Gates had opened the meeting with a speech to a capacity crowd. Waiting backstage in the “Green Room” before their speech, the five students – nine-year old Will Bowman and ten-year-olds Joshua Jenkins, Madelyn Hazslett, Pooja Mulhotra and Miller Love – seemed blissfully unaware of any need to feel nervous. In fact, when they learned Bill Gates had sat in the same couch just a few days earlier, the students rifled through the gaps in the cushions, hoping perhaps a spare million had been left behind.
While this was taking place, the Governor of Washington gave the official welcome to the audience. A few moments later, after I delivered a brief introduction, the students came out to explain to the audience how their school has succeeded at balancing freedom and responsibility.
A five-minute standing ovation followed, although the students were not present for most of it – as soon as they finished, they rushed off the stage; Will and Miller had a tic-tac-toe game that needed finishing, and the others were eager to start sight-seeing with their families. In other words, in their minds what they had done was not out of the ordinary – it was just a part of what went into being a student at a First Amendment School.
For the crowd assembled, however, the moment lingered. Was it really possible for citizens this young to speak with such eloquence and first-hand familiarity about our nation’s founding principles? Before the group scattered, a legislator from South Dakota approached them, the eyes behind his glasses electric with excitement. “I’m a former teacher,” he said, “ and I just want you guys to know that you were the best thing all week at this conference, and the first thing I’m going to do when I go home is urge my colleagues to join me in doing everything we can to ensure that every school in our state becomes a First Amendment School.”
View the presentation online here. The FAS presentation comes in at approximately the 11:30 mark.