HERMITAGE — U.S. Rep. Mark Green (R-TN-07) praised 917 Society founder Joni Bryan as a woman who acted on her initiative and founded an organization that has had profound impacts around Tennessee and the rest of the nation.
Members of the 917 Society met Friday for a Founders Club Dinner at the Tulip Grove Mansion, built in the 1830s by Andrew Jackson Donelson, nephew of former U.S. President Andrew Jackson. The property is located across the street from the Hermitage and is now owned by the Andrew Jackson Foundation.
As reported, because of the 917 Society every eighth-grader in Tennessee gets a copy of the U.S. Constitution — right before they go to high school and about four years before they start voting.
“You think of where big ideas come from, and you think of this person who had this idea in Middle Tennessee and brought it to a couple of friends and said ‘You know I think this could be a big thing.’ And then she didn’t let it go. Sometimes you get an idea and say ‘Whatever, it is probably nothing,’” Green told an audience of about 75 people.
“But she didn’t let it go, and she stayed with it and she went to other people, and before too long she had a small consensus and a team and a not-for-profit formed. The next thing you know they are handing out Constitutions to a few of our eighth-graders, and then all of our eighth-graders. Now people are calling from all over the country to get the U.S. Constitution into the hands of our students. This was a movement that starts with one person, but may change the direction of the country. And I certainly hope it does.”
Members of the group have given out tens of thousands of copies of the U.S Constitution.
Eighth-grade is the year students are supposed to have civics in the U.S. curriculum.
Due to the lack of funding and resources, teachers find it difficult to add one more thing to their classroom agenda. That’s where the 917 Society comes in. Their goal is to provide every eighth grader in Tennessee with a copy of the Constitution, which Bryan has called “a rite of passage.”
Constitutional literacy right now, as members of the group have pointed out, is low among many people.
As reported, Tennessee is the first state to offer a free state Constitution Day program.
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917 Society Community Advisory Board photo courtesy of Facebook post by Tommy Vallejos.