Understanding Constitution a passion for regular guy

first_imgThree weeks ago, Kluge gave notice at the Burbank software firm where he’d served as director of legal affairs for 17 years and turned his full attention to his baby: “The People’s Guide to the United States Constitution.” Released today – Constitution Day, the 220th anniversary of the historic signing – the 218-page updated paperback aims to explain the document that serves as the foundation of American society. Kluge is not a wonky professor or Washington geek. He’s just a regular guy who attended Santa Monica City College and really digs the four pages of wrinkled, weathered paper that begin with the phrase “We The People.” His fervent quest began in 1992, when he was kicking back, watching Bill Clinton, George H.W. Bush and H. Ross Perot slug it out over constitutional issues in a televised presidential debate. The three candidates bickered back and forth over the meaning of the document and Kluge realized he wasn’t sure who was right. He hadn’t read it during his days as a surfer at Palisades High School. He hadn’t read it at SMC. He hadn’t even read it for work, where he was hiring attorneys and dealing with patent law. And he felt a little embarrassed. GLENDALE – Dave Kluge is on a mission. The slim, energetic surfer will not sleep, will not rest, will not relax until the nation shares his passion. He quit his job, gave up his career and built his life around schooling the average Joe about the document that gave birth to this nation. And he is very, very, very committed to making sure people pay attention. “My goal was to get everyone to read the Constitution,” he said. “That’s what it means to be an American. That’s what it means to be a good citizen.” And that’s not uncommon, said A.G. Ferguson, a Washington, D.C., public defender who works with the American Constitution Society. “We’d fight for it and we’d die for it, but we don’t even know what it means,” Ferguson said. “We’ve done a wonderful job in America to create an iconic image of the Constitution, but most of us, even lawyers, don’t really realize how important it is.” But Kluge realized how important it is. He got himself a copy and sat down to read. He found, as many Americans do, however, that the Founding Fathers’ eloquence didn’t translate so well to regular, modern English. Terms like “ex post facto,” “actual Enumeration” and “Capitation” don’t come up so often in everyday conversation and even in modern dictionaries. So Kluge went a step further. He got hold of an 1828 copy of Webster’s Dictionary and started picking apart Thomas Jefferson’s masterpiece. Slowly, its democratic magic descended upon him. He felt enlightened – and he felt the need to spread the word. “He’s the kind of guy who says, `Ya know, this is important,”‘ said Mike Metzler, who put out the updated version of the book with Glendale-based Action Publishing. “He sat down and said, `I’d better educate myself.’ That’s Dave. … Once he got into it, he really liked what he got into.” Kluge threw in references to Pericles, John Locke and pamphleteer Thomas Paine, whom he paraphrases as saying, “Hey, guys, we can have this great nation here.” He delved into the Library of Congress and read old newspapers about its ratification. He decided that the Declaration of Independence was “one of the most aesthetically beautiful documents ever.” As he pieced together his own interpretation, working in a climate of razor-sharp partisan divide, Kluge wanted something everyone could enjoy. Not just Democrats, not just Republicans – he won’t even specify which party he belongs to – but something everyone could agree on. He put in more than a decade of work, including a small run of books with a now-bankrupt publisher, a major revision and countless hours of research. As it neared completion, Kluge and Metzler personally hit the streets, wandering around and asking people what they thought about the most important document in our nation’s history. Plenty of people hadn’t read it – but everyone agreed they should have. “We talked to guys with earrings and tattoos and old guys with canes,” Kluge said, waving a copy of his book with the urgency of a preacher. “They all said the same thing: If we don’t read the Constitution, there’ll be chaos and anarchy. And if we do, there’ll be much more harmony.” [email protected] (818) 713-3738 For more information regarding “The People’s Guide to the United States Constitution,” visit Action Publishing. Additional links include: The Marshall-Brennan Constitutional Literacy Project The American Constitution Society The National Constitution Center160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set!last_img

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