The Tennessee Star Executive Editor Christina Botteri Talks Upcoming National Constitution Bee This Saturday


Live from Music Row Tuesday morning on The Tennessee Star Report with Michael Patrick Leahy – broadcast on Nashville’s Talk Radio 98.3 and 1510 WLAC weekdays from 5:00 a.m. to 8:00 a.m. – host Leahy welcomed The Star News Network Executive Editor Christina Botteri in studio to discuss the upcoming fifth annual National Constitution Bee on Saturday.

Leahy: We are joined in the studio by the executive editor of The Tennessee Star, Christina Botteri. Well, Christina, we have a big event this weekend on Saturday at the Springhill Suites by Marriott in Brentwood.

It’s the fifth edition of The National Constitution Bee. You’ve been involved in this from the very beginning. It has evolved, hasn’t it?

Botteri: Yes, it has.

Leahy: And it’s very interesting because you helped me write and produce. You handled the production side of our book that I co-authored, along with Claudia Henneberry, now the executive director of The National Constitution Bee, and John Harris of the Tennessee Firearms Association.

The three co-authors of a book Guide to the Constitution and Bill of Rights for secondary school students. And that’s the basis of this Constitution Bee. You were very much involved in the design of that book. I have to compliment you on it. Looking at it. A lot of kids have read that book.

Botteri: Yes.

Leahy: It’s about eight by eleven, eight and a half by ten softcovers. There’s about 20 chapters, and each chapter ends with questions for consideration that teachers can use for their lessons, but also has some kind of cool tech elements to it. Describe a little bit how you use those codes in the book because you set that up.

Botteri: I’m just so excited about it. My inner nerd comes out. I guess my inner nerd isn’t so inner. But the book itself is like a really handy size, like you said, a couple of hundred pages softcover. And so it just kind of opens on the desk.

Now I’m kind of an old-school book experience person versus reading digital versions. But I appreciate the additional dimension that an online book or that a website provides.

And so I was thinking about how do we bring that element into a two-dimensional printed book? What we did was at the end of the book we have sourced endnotes.

This sourced endnotes stuff is just great if you’re a student. Basically, you go to the back of the book and the sourced endnotes have a series of QR codes.

Leahy: QR codes. We are really getting up there in technology.

Botteri: Oh, I know. Hey, but wait, there’s more.

Leahy: There’s more. So if you’re doing research and the kids now are preparing, we have 24 kids that are confirmed. We’ll probably have more. We’ll talk about that in a bit. The event starts Saturday, Spring Hill Suites by Marriott.

It’s all based upon this book, and the kids can prepare. We had one kid who got the book, like on a Tuesday, and just focused like crazy on it and ended up being a prize winner because they focused, like, crazy on it.

And you can do that. It’s Thursday. If you’re real ambitious, you go to the You can go link on the textbook. You could buy it, you can listen to it.

We’ve got a podcast of it there. You just go to the textbook and you see the podcast. Tell the kids how to use the codes to prepare for this competition.

Botteri: Well, the book itself is a really fast read. It’s got a unique combination of a journalistic style and an academic style.

So it’s great for reading through and learning quickly. And then you skip to the endnotes to learn more and to see the sources of the statements and the substantiations and such.

Leahy: You can use your iPhone, and it comes very easily. The book itself, we were fact-checked by the center for the Study of the American Constitution at the University of Wisconsin. Not exactly an originalist institution, but they fact-checked it for us and did a very good job.

Now the competition doors open at 8:00 a.m. Spring Hill Suites by Marriott in Brentwood on Saturday. This Saturday. I’ll be there. I’m the master of ceremonies. You’ll be there. You’ll be handing some of the tech stuff and the admin stuff.

Claudia Henneberry is running sort of the questioning side of it in terms of the quality and judging. And she has two judges with her. A panel and three judges. And it’s just going to be a great event.

It begins with what we call the preamble round, where contestants have the option to perform, present or otherwise reimagine the 52 words of the preamble to the Constitution, and we give away three little prizes, the most creative preamble, the most persuasive and the most entertaining preamble. Over the past previous four years, these have been entertaining, haven’t they?

Botteri: Oh, yes. When you just give the kids all the options in the world, it’s just amazing to see what they come up with.

Leahy: And the other little twist on this is there’s an individual competition. Any kid, eighth grade through 12th grade in the entire United States is eligible to compete.

Botteri: Yes. And it doesn’t have to just be for public school kids.

Leahy: No. Homeschoolers, private schools, whatever. And now what’s interesting about this is the winner and we have a process like a spelling bee that ends up in a final winner and a second-place, third-place winner.

Educational scholarship, $10,000 to the winner. We cut the check that day. is where you go to. Last year’s winner, Jackson Carter was a senior at Spring Hill High School in Maury County. He won $10,000.

We gave him a check that day. He applied it to his tuition at the University of Alabama. He’ll be participating in a Zoom call to talk about his experiences and how great that was.

Five thousand dollars to second place. We’re a 501 (c) (3), but we have enough money to give. The money goes to the scholarships for these kids. One of the winners last year put it in their college fund. I think they’re coming back again. So that’s all good.

Botteri: I want to point out that this is an education scholarship.

Leahy: Good point.

Botteri: Yes. It’s meant to fund the next step in your education. And so maybe that’s a trade school.

Leahy: You could use it for a trade school. If you’re a senior in high school and let’s say you’ve decided you want to use this money to go to a private school or do a home school program, you can do that.

It’s all approved. And because we’re nonbureaucratic, we got this little 501 (c) (3), the Star News Education Foundation that we set up five years ago for this purpose.

Botteri: And we believe kids and their families can make the right decision.

Leahy: They can make the right choices. It’s a competition, of course. And you got to get it right. You’ve got to prepare. But if you prepare, if there’s only 24 kids there. Three of them are going to get prizes. Individual prizes. That’s one out of eight. That’s a pretty good shot.

Botteri: Those are good odds.

Leahy: Those are good odds. So if you’re out there listening and you’re thinking, well, my child should participate. Yes, they should. You still got time 48 hours before we begin.

Botteri: And if you want to listen to the podcast limited-edition podcast, it’s fantastic. I can’t recommend it enough.

Leahy: You can find that at We’ve got all 21 pages.

Botteri: You could listen to the entire thing.

Leahy: Probably if you started now, you’d be done by Friday night. I think you’d be prepared. You’d be ready. Now, we have a little interesting twist on this to make it so that we want everybody who participates in this to have an opportunity to win.

We’ve structured the rules so that if you’re out in the first round, you can still compete. And we have team winners as well. This year, we’re dividing the 24 participants into four teams. Stewart County’s Kyle Mallory, now the assistant principal, there has been a big supporter of this at his public school.

They’re bringing six kids. Stewart County is a separate team. They were the state champion two years ago when we were just doing it. The state now we’re doing national. Now the game is up.

And so Stewart County, then we have Nashville, kids from Middle Tennessee. Then we have the Tennessee team, which is kids from the rest of Tennessee. Then we have the USA team. The USA team consists of a couple of kids from Texas, a kid from Georgia, one from New Hampshire, one from Illinois.

Botteri: That’s right.

Leahy: And so there just might be a little prize money in this. And the way it works is if you’re out of the individual competition, we set up “friends of the court” where you sit and wait and you can help out your teammate if they don’t know the answer to the question. And you can earn points for your team if you give them the right answer. It’s really a lot of fun.

Botteri: It is.

Leahy: And so we’ll look forward to you’re. Welcome to come. Spring Hill Suites by Marriott. Doors open at 8:00 a.m. on Saturday. The competition begins at nine. Usually, the fireworks are in the last round of the competition after the essay competition is around 1:30 or 2:00.

So we should have the champion and we’ll be giving away almost $20,000. Kids will have earned $20,000 in educational scholarships on Saturday.

Listen to the third hour here:

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


















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