Kelly: revitalize the Bill of Rights

How about a new American revolution? Perhaps a peaceful one - one which would reassess the Constitution and democratic values and press for changes?

The idea comes not from right-wingers hawking a constitutional convention to balance the budget, or even left-wing radicals advocating a government overthrow. Instead, it's proffered by veteran Republic-watcher Frank Kelly. Mr. Kelly, a mild-mannered, peace-loving fellow, served for more than a decade as gatekeeper for the nation's most prestigious constitutional debating society, the Center for the Study of Democratic Institutions (CSDI).

Kelly, an adviser and speech writer for President Harry S. Truman, held CSDI's vice-presidential reins in the 1960s when Rexford Tugwell (one of Franklin D. Roosvelt's kitchen cabinet) carved a controversial model Constitution and served it up for scholarly debate. Now semi-retired in Santa Barbara and writing books on the workings of freedom, Kelly suggests digging out the ''Tugwell thing'' of two decades ago - and using it as a launching pad for a new national referendum on the Constitution.

Among other things, he would appoint an independent citizens committee to craft a new model; encourage media stories on how the Constitution touches the daily lives of Americans; and foster grass-roots discussions on ''rights'' and ''responsibilities.''

''There is too much emphasis now on what you are going to get - [and] not enough on what you are going to give,'' insists Kelly. ''People have an obligation to do more than vote. [They need to] be informed.''

Kelly's ''Bill of Rights'' would stress the right to be educated and the right to be informed - on matters such as national defense. It would include an ''equal rights statement'' covering all Americans, regardless of race, sex, and creed.'' It would awaken parents to the ''family as a constitutional body in which all members have rights.''

Further, religion would be a vital part of Frank Kelly's constitutional revitalization - although he rejects any type of government support for denominations. ''It (religion) should be used to instill the concept of the dignity of every human being,'' he explains.

''True religion consists of caring for one's neighbors. . . . You don't get that from science and technology - only from religious sources,'' Kelly stresses.

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