A Republic if You Can Keep It: Former Teacher and Author Claudia Henneberry Explains the Difference Between a Republic and a Democracy


On Friday’s Tennessee Star Report with Michael Patrick Leahy – broadcast on Nashville’s Talk Radio 98.3 and 1510 WLAC weekdays from 5:00 am to 8:00 am – Leahy welcomed friend and co-author of the Star News Digital Media Guide to the Constitution and the Bill of Rights for Secondary Students, Claudia Henneberry. Henneberry used the chapter title, A Republic if You Can Keep It for one of the book’s chapters now, coincidentally the title of a new book coming out by Justice Neil Gorsuch.

During the show, Leahy and Henneberry discussed the difference between a republic and a democracy and how the the phrase for her chapter in the Guidebook was inspired.

Leahy: But now, in this hour our special guest in studio, very good friend and my co-author, Claudia Henneberry. Welcome, Claudia.

Henneberry: Hi. You too, Michael. Thank you for having me.

Leahy: It’s great to be with you. And you are the co-author of the now latest edition of the Star News Digital Media, that’s the name of our parent company. The Star News Digital Media Guide to the Constitution and the Bill of Rights for Secondary Students. Because they need to learn about the constitution and civics. This book is written from an originalist perspective. Not a living constitution.

Henneberry: You mean the truth?

Leahy: That’s what I meant. Yes. If you like Justice Scalia. If you like Justice Clarence Thomas. If you like Justice Neil Gorsuch. And if by the way, if you follow the founding fathers and the framers this is the book for you of the constitution. Now, Claudia you also have been a terrific help as a judge in the Tennessee Star Constitution Bee. We’ve held them annually for three consecutive years. You’ve been at every single one of those events for 2017, 2018, and 2019. And being a judge, a lot of pressure on that.

Henneberry: Well, I wrote the questions too so.

Leahy: You also wrote the questions. We have 200 spectacular questions and Claudia wrote those questions.

Henneberry: I did.

Leahy: A labor of love.

Henneberry: It’s a blast! Because I actually get to go back. I used to be a high school teacher and I miss the kids desperately. And it’s fun to go back and see some high school kids for a change and watch them tell about what they know about the constitution and our book.

Leahy: And it’s very exciting because we’re going to be holding our fourth annual Constitution Bee this April 25th, 2020. It will be at Metro Christian Academy in Goodlettsville. That was our venue last year. That was a nice venue, wasn’t it?

Henneberry: It was great.

Leahy: It’s the best venue we’ve had so far for the Tennessee Star Constitution Bee. And by the way, if you’re out there and you want to sign up, go to TennesseeStar.com. There’s a little place in the upper right-hand corner of our website. And you can sign up. We take students grades 8th through 12th. Fact checked by teachers at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. They’re kind of lefties but they fact-checked the book.

Henneberry: They did it.

Leahy: The Center for the American Constitution. And you’ve got a chapter in there by the way that Neil Gorsuch is, what’s the name of the chapter you wrote?

Henneberry: A few chapters in there. A republic if you can keep it.

Leahy: That’s a great phrase. A republic if you can keep it. And it’s being copied by Justice Neil Gorsuch. We’d love him to copy it. And he’s coming out next week with a book with the very same title. He must have read your chapter.

Henneberry: I think he must have and took notes from reading mine. (Leahy chuckles)

Leahy: I’m sure he did.

(Commercial break)

Leahy: And our very first out of state Constitution Bee will be held in Michigan on December 14th at Oakland County Community College. They want us to do it in December Claudia. And I’m going to go up there. You’re welcome to come. But December in Michigan. I don’t know.

Henneberry: I don’t know about that.

Leahy: Where did the idea come to you for this chapter with this compelling phrase, A Republic if You Can Keep It? Where did the idea come for that?

Henneberry: Well I wanted to drive it home that we have a republic, not a democracy. And this is something that you see all over textbooks. You see everywhere in the open education resources that democracy this. democracy that. We do not have a democracy.

Leahy: Stop the presses. (Henneberry chuckles) Because probably most secondary school students today if you were to ask them that question they would say, “Well we have a pure democracy.” Which is entirely wrong. By the way, you talk about standards this is new information to you.

In the state of Michigan, they just put new social studies standards. They say that it is a democracy. The social studies standards there. This is how bad it is. So, what’s the story behind the phrase, A Republic if You Can Keep It.

Henneberry: Well, Mrs. Powell who was a socialite back in the day…

Leahy: This is a socialite. Was she the wife of the Mayor of Philadelphia in the 1780’s?

Henneberry: Philadelphia, yes. She would hobnob with the who’s who in the political circles. She just happened to be around when Benjamin Franklin walked out of the continental congress.

Leahy: The constitutional convention on the day they signed this. Which would be…

Henneberry: September 7th, 1787.

Leahy: So he walks out of Independence Hall in Philadelphia?

Henneberry: Yeah. That’s what they say. And he was walking out. And she wanted to know whether this was a monarchy or whether this was something else. And he said, “Well, Madam, it’s a republic if you can keep it. We have made a republic for you if you can keep it.”

Leahy: Now, there’s a lot to that phrase isn’t there? When we say a republic, just for those secondary school students who are attending Williamson county schools who are getting the wrong info along with some of the other schools here. The difference between a republic and a democracy.

Henneberry: I’ve got that. A democracy is a majority that has unlimited power where otherwise the republic is a written constitution which limits the majority and provides safeguards for the individual and minorities.

Leahy: So in a republic we elect representatives…

Henneberry: Absolutely.

Leahy: And then they use their own judgment in legislative bodies in passing laws and we elect executives in our three branches of our government. Which is at the federal level, state level, and the local level. Those laws are passed by elected legislators and then signed by elected executives. But it’s not like where the majority rules right? This is what the kids think right?

Henneberry: They do. And democracies are ruled by feelings. While in a republic a rule of law governs. What a concept huh?

Leahy: What a concept. And we see that playing out here in Metro Nashville Davidson county with the current stories.

Listen to the full hour:

– – –

Tune in weekdays from 5:00 – 8:00 am to the Tennessee Star Report with Michael Patrick Leahy on Talk Radio 98.3 FM WLAC 1510. Listen online at iHeart Radio.







Related posts

One Thought to “A Republic if You Can Keep It: Former Teacher and Author Claudia Henneberry Explains the Difference Between a Republic and a Democracy”

  1. […] way in the Star News Media Digital Guide to the Constitution and Bill of Rights that’s titled A Republic if You Can Keep It. It was published in 2017. Didn’t Neil Gorsuch have a book on […]