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In her words: Student’s shirt becomes part of TEA Party movement
September 21, 2009, 4:56 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

“In his/her words” is a periodic feature where a student newsmaker writes a guest column about his or her notable experience. To nominate a student newsmaker, e-mail

Ashleigh Kenny created a booming business out of putting “RIP The U.S. Constitution” on a T-shirt — including speaking on various news outlets and handing her product to Rep. Jack Kingston. This is her story in her own words.

Ashleigh Kenny and Rep. Kingston

Ashleigh Kenny and Rep. Kingston

By Ashleigh Kenny, guest columnist from Valdosta State University.

I am fed up. Anyone can look around and realize that other Americans feel similarly as me. A TEA party was just around the corner, and I wanted express my frustration. I thought a T-shirt would be the perfect way to stand out.

As I went through ideas for the design, so many quotes from notable leaders stood out to me. However, the words of President Ronald Reagan just seemed so applicable to today’s situation: “In this present crisis, government is not the solution to our problem; government is the problem.” Despite delivering those words in 1964, they have never been more true.

Today, our government smothers us. Our Tenth Amendment spells out how powers are to be distributed: Those not granted to the federal or state governments are reserved to be the right of the people. That doesn’t happen today.

And a system of checks and balances? Balance is one thing our government lacks. The executive and legislative branches are under the control of liberals, who seek to impose health care and environmental reforms on us without input from conservatives or independents. They seemingly don’t care about any negative impact these bills will have on jobs or our back-breaking deficit.

Despite all of this, the uppity attitude our representatives showed to concerned citizens during town hall events this August proves our leaders are completely out-of-touch. The people are now accountable to the government — that’s not the way it should be.

“R.I.P. the U.S. Constitution.”

That phrase summed up my frustration with government. The document that made this nation great has seemingly been discarded into a trash can behind Nancy Pelosi’s desk. I decided to use this phrase for a T-shirt and wear it to my local TEA party.

As soon as I arrived at the party, people wanted to know where I got the shirt and how they could get one. So, I had more printed to fill the local orders.

At the event, I presented one to Congressman Jack Kingston, who took it with a huge smile. He was encouraged by my youth and activism. I couldn’t have asked him to be more grateful or to hold a better attitude about it.

I wanted him to have it because many of his constituents wanted them. Obviously, the message was in the heart of so many so many others. A picture was taken and posted on his blog.

Some progressive bloggers saw the picture and personally attacked me for my own beliefs. Ironically, they want to fight the notion the constitution is dead, yet disregard the First Amendment when someone makes a claim they don’t support.

However, for every personal attack, there has been twice the amount of support. Congressman Kingston and his staff were there to help me through it all.

After Erick Erickson, from Red State, wrote on my behalf, support began flooding in. Like wildfire, the story started appearing everywhere I looked. Arianna Huffington brought it up on Bill Maher, local radio talk shows began asking for interviews, and our regional news program did a story. “Fox and Friends” also had me on their show, and life has changed drastically ever since.

I didn’t think people from all over the country would want this T-shirt, so I didn’t prepare for a booming business. I was hit with so many orders that I literally couldn’t handle them all. Thousands of T-shirts have been ordered, and I’ve had to make some big changes in my life to keep up.

My goal throughout all of this? I wanted to create an organization that would unify America and encourage activism in my generation.

I wanted something that would encourage young conservatives to stand up without cutting off those who oppose us since I don’t think we can really form a well rounded opinion, until we know where another stands and why.

Ultimately, I just wanted to make a difference and I know it requires reaching out, in all directions, to do that.

To do this, I founded Matter Now, an organization that will encourage young people to stand and make a difference. I hope to encourage activism, even in those who don’t believe the same way I do, because I truly believe my generation has to be on board if America is to move forward. I strive to find ways to meet in the middle, without sacrificing the values of our founding fathers.

From the support I received during the last few months, I know many would-be allies are out there. The battle is to get young people engaged and to provide CPR, if you will, to our Constitution. My T-shirt business is a start, and it gives me hope.


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