A Small Gift, a Big Impact

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Cato receives many requests for Pocket Constitutions — the Institute has printed over five million copies to date. And so, after receiving a request for 10 to 20 Spanish English constitutions for a group of adult English students in February, Cato marketing coordinator Matthew Lego promptly placed them in an envelope and sent them on their way to Massachusetts, not expecting a reply — it was a routine request, like hundreds of others he had fulfilled. But a few weeks later, he received a stack of thank-you notes — the entire class had handwritten their thanks for the Constitutions, and what the Founders’ words meant to them. For them, the words of the Founders were anything but routine.

One newly minted citizen expressed how important it was for him to learn more about the Constitution and Declaration of Independence of the United States. Now, he said happily, “I know the history and the laws of my new country.” He revealed his own American dream — to someday buy a brand-new house, and own a new car. A woman from the Dominican Republic wrote that she is working toward her citizenship, and eagerly reading the Constitution. She hopes to go to college one day, she said, so she can provide help for her family overseas. Another student, a mother of two children, expressed how important it was to her to be learning her new rights. One student hoped this would be the beginning of a new chapter of studying constitutional law in college. “I want to study something that makes my family proud,” wrote another. A Colombian student, a dentist in his former country, wants to study U.S. history — and, he observed, there is no better starting point for him than the U.S. Constitution.

After Lego thanked the teacher for these notes, she wrote in reply:

Your donation is a prized possession among my students. You gave my immigrant students hope, faith and belief in the vision our Founding Fathers had when they created the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution. Your generosity is evidence that there is and always will be good in the world. The problem is that it is becoming more difficult to find the innate good we all possess ... but that does not mean it is not there. Thank you very much. I truly appreciate all that you have done for us.

Lego called this note “a real dose of perspective,” and “a reminder that the simplest gestures can yield incredible results.” “More importantly,” he said, “it was a powerful reminder that the work we do here matters, and it has real and lasting impacts on the lives of people we’ll probably never meet.”

Around the same time, Cato Constitutions were traveling to Manhattan, reaching a leading private boys’ school where an eighthgrade homeroom teacher was taking his students on a journey through the Constitution — beginning with memorizing the first two sentences of the Declaration of Independence, and then spending several months reading the Constitution out loud and discussing it. The teacher, who has been ordering Constitutions from Cato by the hundreds for over 15 years, says the boys are always eager to learn about their rights. “It’s never a dull discussion,” he said. He believes this exercise makes the students “more American” — more appreciative of the rights and freedoms their Founders believed in.