He Got a Bad Grade. So, He Got the Constitution Amended. Now He’s Getting the Credit He Deserves.

“I wanted to demonstrate that one extremely dedicated, extremely vocal, energetic person could push this through. I think I demonstrated that.”

By Matt LargeyMarch 15, 2017 9:30 am| , , ,

From KUT – This story was originally performed as part of Pop Up Magazine.

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.