December 15th is National Bill of Rights Day, which was the perfect day to dedicate the nation’s first monument to The Bill of Rights. The monuments were erected right across from the Arizona State Capitol in Wesley Bolin Memorial Plaza.
Positioned upright are the 10 limestone monoliths, all of which stand 10-foot tall. Each stone tablet is carved with large block letters with amazing craftsmenship. The tablets bare roughly 500 words, but are some of the most important words written by our founding fathers.
1. Free speech. 2. The right to bear arms. 3. Freedom from having soldiers take over your house. 4. Freedom from unreasonable search and seizure. 5. The right to due process of law. 6. The right to confront your accusers in an impartial court of law. 7. The right to sue and be sued. 8. Freedom from cruel and unusual punishment. 9. A recognition that other rights exist. 10. The right for states to retain sovereignty from the federal government
MyBillofRights.org Executive Director Chris Bliss, who came up with the idea, has a mission. To “promote an enduring awareness of and respect for the freedoms and the principles guaranteed by the Bill of Rights, through the installation of Bill of Rights monuments and permanent displays in civic spaces across America.”
“It is time for us to rediscover our own Bill of Rights; to elevate it to the position of public prominence it richly deserves; and in so doing to help replant the seeds of America’s greatness so that the generations who follow can share in their bounty as we have,” says Bliss
When Bliss came up with the idea in Phoenix back in 2004, he was newly famous for a viral video in which he juggled four balls perfectly in sync with the Beatles song “Golden Slumbers” from the “Abbey Road” album. Chris realized that there wasn’t a monument anywhere in the U.S. commemorating the Bill of Rights. Bliss then caught the ears of friends, talk-radio hosts and people whom he thought could get it started. But nobody seemed too interested. As he researched monuments in general, he was told, “We don’t build monuments to ideas, we build them to people and events.”
He took it on as a personal challenge, and it was the biggest juggling act of his career.
After meeting with several Arizona representatives, Rep. Karen Johnson agreed to co-sponsor his efforts. It passed! What politician, after all, can say no to the Constitution? But getting through the ensuing red tape and paying for the construction were other matters. Bliss moved to Austin, Texas, but remained committed to the idea. Finally in the fall of 2010, the commission in charge of state monuments offered Bliss some prime real estate on a hillside in Bolin Plaza.
“How could I contain myself?” Bliss said. “You don’t want to do the happy dance right away.” He contracted with a stone sculptor in Texas, worked up a design, and assembled an executive committee. The first contribution, Bliss said, was a $10 check from a disabled vet, a modest start.
In May of this year, he staged a comedy-show fundraiser at Symphony Hall that included Lewis Black, Don “Father Guido Sarducci” Novello, Steven Wright, Bobcat Goldthwait, and even old leftie icons Tom Smothers and Dick Gregory. They raised more than $110,000. Bigger contributions followed. Bliss got money from Newman’s Own Foundation, the Arizona Cardinals and Diamondbacks, and others. As of Thursday, Bliss was within $5,000 of the $400,000 cost of the monument.
Bliss knew when he pitched the idea, no one would be able to refute the overall importance of the list itself and how it shapes the laws of the land. “I’m not a lawyer, and I didn’t particularly get along with my father, who was one,” Bliss said, “but the rule of law is the basis of a free society.”
And on December 15th of this year, patriots gathered to commemorate America’s first monument of the Bill of Rights. They discussed the original meaning of the roughly 500 words, and the implications to freedom should these words be forgotten or misunderstood. Arizona made history on this day, as it is the first to erect such a monument on capitol grounds.
If you’re interested in a moniment in your state, Contact Chris Bliss here. http://mybillofrights.org/
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