cover image Constitution Caf%C3%A9: Jefferson's Brew for a True Revolution

Constitution Caf%C3%A9: Jefferson's Brew for a True Revolution

Christopher Phillips. Norton, $24.95 (288p) ISBN 978-0-393-06480-3

Is the U.S. Constitution a work-in-progress or an unchangeable "product of divine inspiration"? Thomas Jefferson, a believer in a participatory democracy, thought it was the mark of a healthy society to make changes to the constitution every generation. Taking his cue from our third president, Phillips (Socrates Caf%C3%A9) embarks on a yearlong mission to engage Americans in conversations about how they would rewrite the Constitution. He meets with entrepreneurs and undocumented workers, congressmen and prison inmates, Boy Scouts and Tea Partiers%E2%80%94asking each group to rewrite an article or amendment to the Constitution relevant to them. Journalists debate freedom of the press and Wiki Leaks; congressional staffers hold forth on presidential pardons; and in a particularly poignant conversation, junior high school victims of the foreclosure crisis%E2%80%94now living in resettlement shelters with their families%E2%80%94create an amendment addressing inheritance and redistribution of income. An engaging and informative narrator, Phillips intersperses the modern-day conversations with Jefferson's thoughts about the issues under discussion and the founding fathers' own disagreements as they framed the Constitution. In an era of hyper-partisanship, it's refreshing to read instances of Americans from all political persuasions holding rational, respectful and thought-provoking conversations with one another. (Aug.)