This article was originally published at Convention of States.
The year was 1964, and Gary Porter wanted to fly.
“This one ROTC instructor really made an impression on me and convinced me the Air Force was the best way to go,” Porter says. He was sent to pilot training where he met his wife Phyllis. Married for 45 years, they have two children and seven grandchildren.
Porter performed so well at pilot training that he was afforded his choice of assignment.
“I only wanted to fly fighters, and really one in particular” Porter says with a smile. He chose the F-105, considered to be the premiere fighter jet at the beginning of the Vietnam War.
“Our job as ‘Wild Weasels’ was to keep the bomber force safe and suppress the surface-to-air missile threat.” After flying a total of 107 missions, the war ended and Porter returned to the states.
“I survived, but some of my friends did not,” Porter says. “They were good people who were doing their job to the best of their ability.” After a short stretch with Pan-Am, Porter became a contractor, ending up at at Langley Air Force Base in Virginia.
With a Masters degree in Education and years of training others, Porter cultivated a love for teaching.
“The 2008 election convinced me that I really needed to understand my Constitution better,” Porter says, “and I started by taking some courses.” Porter ordered a series of DVDs on the Constitution and showed them to his friends.
“I did that as often as I could. In order to teach people the Constitution, you really just need to know how to push play on a DVD player,” he says. In 2012, Porter founded the Constitution Leadership Initiative and now teaches seminars on the Constitution to students of all ages–courses that he’s written and designed himself.
Porter also serves as a volunteer docent at the Foundation for American Christian Education (FACE). Verna Hall and Rosalie Slater founded FACE in order to preserve and teach America’s Christian history. They eventually authored several works of their own, such as the Christian History of the Constitution and the Christian History of the Revolution.
“They wanted to keep alive the idea of America’s Christian founding,” Porter says. As they conducted research for their volumes, Hall and Slater traveled the world to collect original sources, including some very rare books, manuscripts, and pamphlets.
The FACE library includes many old and valuable documents, such as the works of John Locke, printed in 1722. Their oldest document, Certain Sermons or Homilies Preached in the Time of Queen Elizabeth, was printed in 1633 on the authority of the King of England.
FACE also publishes a school curriculum called the NOAH Plan, based on the “Principle Approach,” the same method by which America’s Founders were educated. When asked if government-run schools do an adequate job of teaching the Constitution, Porter points out that Supreme Court rulings have made that impossible.
“You can’t understand the Constitution without understanding the Founders’ worldview.” According to Porter, that worldview was decidedly Christian in nature.
“They understood man in the Biblical sense as a fallen creature subject to sin,” Porter says. “You don’t trust him with too much political power, because he’s liable to abuse it.” That’s why separation of powers and checks and balances are such important functions in the Constitution’s design. Ultimately, however, checks and balances can only do so much.
“Despite the best design of government you can conceive, there’s still the potential for abuse of power,” says Porter. “What you need then is for the people, who are the source of all political power, to remain vigilant to what their representatives are doing. That’s where the American people have fallen down.”
Convention of States Project believes an Article Five convention of states is an unused check on the government’s power. An Article Five convention employs the power of federalism in conjunction with the voice of the people in order to decentralize power and restore liberty.
“I kind of fell into Convention of States Project through happenstance, or Providence, if you will,” Porter grins. “I was against the idea at first.” Last year, in fact, Porter was invited by some of his friends to go to Richmond and lobby against the Convention of States Project resolution.
“I don’t think we changed anyone’s mind that day,” Porter says, “but I strongly suggest that anyone who has a passion for getting involved with their government try this. You’ll understand the process of government better.”
As he and his friends were leaving, Porter saw a pamphlet advertising a presentation by Convention of States Project co-founder Michael Farris. Intrigued, Porter attended the lecture.
“Farris was very persuasive,” Porter says. “He put forward some arguments that I had never encountered before.” Like many opponents of Convention of States, Porter had initially bought the argument that the federal government doesn’t observe the Constitution anyway, so why bother changing it? However, Farris convinced him that the government does follow a written Constitution as interpreted by the Supreme Court.
The Constitution of the United States: Analysis and Interpretation is a 3,000-page public document available on government websites, and it serves as the legal authority for everything the federal government does.
“Congress obeys that Constitution,” Porter says, “and it will continue to obey that Constitution until something stops them.” Porter even purchased a physical copy of the massive document in order to show his seminar students.
“Nearly every page represents a grant of power to the federal government,” Porter says. “Unless we make its wording crystal clear, we’re going to continue to operate under this Constitution forever until the whole house of cards comes falling down.”
Because the Supreme Court has assumed the power of judicial review, the court essentially has the final say on what is the law of the land, and the men and women in black robes often gets it wrong.
“The problem is most vividly demonstrated in the Commerce Clause,” Porter says. The original design of the Commerce Clause was to promote regular interstate commerce. Today, the Commerce Clause is used to justify all sorts of government intrusions on business.
“(Supreme Court) rulings have given power to Congress to do whatever it wants as long as it has something to do with business,” Porter says.
According to Porter, there’s two ways to return to the original Constitution. Either the Supreme Court must overturn all of its previous erroneous decisions—quite an unlikely scenario—or we amend the Constitution to clarify ambiguous language.
“We want there to be a controlled convention,” Porter explains, “and that’s where the specific instructions espoused by the Convention of States Project come in.”
Those instructions read as follows:
“…a convention for the purpose of proposing amendments to the Constitution of the United States that will impose fiscal restraints on the federal government, limit the power and jurisdiction of the federal government, and limit the terms of office for officials of the federal government.”
“This constitutional republic is in great jeopardy,” Porter says. “Franklin said they were giving us a republic if we could keep it. We have not done a very good job of keeping that republic, and we’re about to lose it if we don’t take some drastic steps.”
As a byproduct of an Article Five Convention, Porter foresees a spontaneous, nationwide seminar on the Constitution.
“As we approach an Article Five Convention, we’ll have discussions about the Constitution in every location—bedrooms and living rooms and bars and offices and taxi cabs and public parks!”
It’s this prospect of a constitutional revival that is one of the most exciting aspects of the Convention of States movement.
“People will start asking the right questions of candidates,” Porter says. “What is the original purpose of government? And if it’s different today, how do we work back towards that original design?”
Gary Porter is truly one of Liberty’s Heroes as he continues to educate others on the value of the Constitution and how its Framers gave us the solution within its pages.
To be one of Liberty’s Heroes, join the fight.