Mark Green Praises 917 Society Founder Joni Bryan: A Tennessee Woman with ‘Big Ideas’ Who Inspired Change


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.

917 Society Founders Club members Lee Beaman, Dr. Ming Wang, and Rep. Mark Green.

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.”

917 Society Community Advisory Board. Joni Bryan is second from left.

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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Chris Butler is an investigative journalist at The Tennessee Star. Follow Chris on Facebook. Email tips to [email protected]

917 Society Community Advisory Board photo courtesy of Facebook post by Tommy Vallejos.




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2 Thoughts to “Mark Green Praises 917 Society Founder Joni Bryan: A Tennessee Woman with ‘Big Ideas’ Who Inspired Change”

  1. Ron Welch

    “Constitutional literacy right now, as members of the group have pointed out, is low among many people.”

    Yes! And according to what laws they have passed and try to pass, it’s especially low among politicians who take an oath of office to uphold it according to the words read according to the rules of English grammar.

  2. william r. delzell

    Here’s hoping they will use the Constitution to fight against the right-wing extremists who have taken over Tennessee and much of the rest of the nation. I hope the 8th graders will read the part on the prohibition on the establishment by the government of a particular religion. Even more important, I hope this copy of the U.S. Constitution will have an updated Bill of Rights that includes everything BEYOND the tenth amendment. Respect especially the 14th and 15th Amendments that guarantee voting rights to everybody regardless of race and oppose attempts to suppress this right. Also, read the Women’s Suffrage 19th Amendment. After familiarizing themselves with these amendments and with the historic right of Congress to over see military and foreign policy issues, they should take a thorough course on U.S. history that shows how oppressed groups fought unfair bigotry and opposed reckless wars that had nothing to do with our national security such as Korea and Vietnam. Remember to read about Truman’s dangerous precedent of plunging us into an undeclared war on the Korean Peninsula during 1950. Yes, this copy of the Constitution should be the start of each eighth grader’s journey from bigotry to enlightenment.