Lincoln East High School is the 2020 winner of We the People: The Citizen and the Constitution, a high school program sponsored by the Nebraska State Bar Foundation. The competition took place Jan. 8 at the University of Nebraska College of Law.
Lincoln East team members and their teacher, Kevin Rippe, will represent Nebraska at the national We the People competition in April in Washington, D.C.
“We the People involves students in real-life situations and issues," Rippe said. "It puts students in a scenario where they have to think on their feet and use their knowledge as well as critical thinking skills to answer questions on issues relevant to our political system and our community. I have had students who have changed their college majors or career plans based on their experiences in We the People.”
The Lincoln Southeast High School team finished runner-up and is taught by David Nebel.
Lincoln schools receiving honorable mention awards were Lincoln North Star High School, Jace Ahlberg, instructor; and Lincoln Southwest High School, Ryan Salem, instructor.
Members of the judiciary, lawyers, educators, state government officials and community volunteers served as timers, facilitators and judges for the annual competition. The We the People classroom curriculum is devoted to the history and principles of constitutional democracy in the United States.
Keynote speaker was Judge Francie Riedmann of the Nebraska Court of Appeals. Awards were presented by Pam Hastings Carrier, state coordinator, and Steve Guenzel, president of the Nebraska State Bar Foundation. Acting NU College of Law Dean Anna Shavers welcomed students to the college.
“Wow! I am so impressed,” Riedmann told the students. She said the competition required them to think on their feet, reason, analyze and “take the past and make it applicable to the future.” The competition also promotes valuable life skills, she said.
“I urge you to stay involved in your government," she said. "You are the people for whom our government was formed.”
Carrier said the We the People curriculum fosters attitudes necessary for students to participate as effective, responsible citizens and complies with Nebraska state standards for civics and government. She thanked students for participating and reminded them that We the People provides them with a foundation to “embrace the Constitution and use it in the future to solve national problems.”
Teams of three or four students presented essays and answered questions before panels of judges in the state competition. The questions were focused on the following units of study in the curriculum:
• What are the philosophical and historical foundations of the American political system?
• How did the Framers create the Constitution?
• How has the Constitution changed to further the ideals contained in the Declaration of Independence?
• How have the values and principles embodied in the Constitution shaped American institutions and practices?
• What rights does the Bill of Rights protect?
• What challenges might face American Constitutional Democracy in the 21st Century?