Positivity: He Got a Bad Grade. So, He Got the Constitution Amended. Now He’s Getting the Credit He Deserves.
MAR 13, 2017
With everything that’s going on in politics these days, it helps to remember the power that we have as individuals to make change. Examples of this are far too few, of course.
But there is one that stands out. And you’ve probably never heard it.
The story begins in 1982. A 19-year-old sophomore named Gregory Watson was taking a government class at UT Austin. For the class, he had to write a paper about a governmental process. So he went to the library and started poring over books about the U.S. Constitution — one of his favorite topics.
“I’ll never forget this as long as I live,” Gregory says. “I pull out a book that has within it a chapter of amendments that Congress has sent to the state legislatures, but which not enough state legislatures approved in order to become part of the Constitution. And this one just jumped right out at me.”
That unratified amendment read as follows:
“No law varying the compensation for the services of the Senators and Representatives shall take effect until an election of representatives shall have intervened.”
Basically, it means any raise Congress votes to give itself can’t take effect until after the next election, allowing voters to decide how they felt about that.
The amendment had been proposed almost 200 years earlier, in 1789. It was written by James Madison and was intended to be one of the very first amendments, right along with the Bill of Rights.
But it didn’t get passed by enough states at the time. You see, to ratify an amendment, you need three-quarters of states to approve it.
This amendment, though it was 200 years old, didn’t have a deadline.
Gregory was intrigued. He decided to write his paper about the amendment and argue that it was still alive and could be ratified. He got to work, being very meticulous about citations and fonts and everything. He turned it in to the teaching assistant for his class — and got it back with a C.
He didn’t know what to make of it. He was sure it was better than a C.
He appealed the grade to the professor, Sharon Waite.
“I kind of glanced at it, but I didn’t see anything that was particularly outstanding about it and I thought the C was probably fine,” she recalls.
Most people would have just taken the grade and left it at that. Gregory is not most people.
“So I thought right then and there, ‘I’m going to get that thing ratified.’” …
“>Go here for the rest of the story — including what happened to Watson’s grade.
Go here to see what resulted from Watson’s efforts.