Authors: Bill O'Reilly
This book is for Madeline and Spencer,
who hopefully will develop into great
Americans and improve their country.
Your Dad Loves You.
For Sharon Canup , whose dry wit and
good heart are missed, but essential to
Could not have been done without ace
agent Eric Simonoff, purveyor of
calm Makeda Wubneh, excellent editor
Hope Innelli, and keeper of the domestic
flame Maureen O'Reilly.
Long ago, Brainerd Junior High School
teacher “Lassie” Munsey labored tirelessly
against great odds to teach a raucous
all-boy class about our rights. Hope this
book gets it right, Miss Munsey.
Welcome to the real world.
That's rightâ¦The real deal: life in the United States of America, where you are a citizen. Millions all over the world would like to be in your sneakersâ¦So together let's begin looking at the countless reasons why.
A QUICK BITE OF REALITY TV
Friday Harbor, a quiet village on an island off the coast of Washington State. Boats, gulls, waves, breezesâyou know the kind of thing.
The modest home of single mother Carmen Dixon and her daughter Lacy, fourteen. Mom's home alone. The phone rings.
Mrs. Dixon, this is Sheriff Cumming.
Is Lacy all right?
She's fine, ma'am, so far as I know. But she's got a boyfriend who may be in trouble.
I knew it. It's Oliver. He's too old for her. He's seventeen.
Well, I think he mugged an old lady downtown and ran off with her purse.
Lacy would never be involved in something like that.
Yes, ma'am. But maybe Oliverâyou know how he isâwould brag to her, and tell her what he did with the purse.
I see. Well, I'll do what I can.
Mrs. Dixon puts down the receiver just as her daughter walks in. The phone rings again.
That's probably Oliver, Mom. I'll take it on the extension in my bedroom.
The girl walks into the next room. Her mother very quietly picks up the kitchen phone.
(on telephone, laughing)âand then I took out the money and threw the old lady's purse into those weeds near the railroad crossing.
Okay, this little slice of reality TV might not make the top ten, but it's all true. It happened, and so did a lot more than that, as you'll see. I think the whole story is a good “tease,” as we say in TV, for this little book about your rights as an American kid.
Mrs. Dixon told the sheriff what she heard about the purseâ¦He found it, along with other evidence about the crime. Oliver was arrested, convicted in a jury trial, and sentenced to two years in jail.
Justice at work?
Not according to the American Civil Liberties Union, which sent lawyers in, mouths blazing, to argue to the court that Lacy's constitutional rights had been violated when her mother eavesdropped on her “private” conversation with her beloved mugger. So what? Well, that meant what Mrs. Dixon heard had not been legally obtained and therefore could not be used as evidence in a trial.
Does that argument make any sense to you? Well, it did to the state's supreme court. The judges agreed that the girl's right to privacy had been violated, so Oliver's conviction was thrown out of court. (He was convicted in a second trial without Mrs. Dixon's testimony, but that's another story.)
Now, it's cool that we all have a right to privacy and that we are free to see to it that it's enforced, but there are a couple of things to think about here. First, does a parent
have the right to protect a child from harm? And in this case, wasn't Mrs. Dixon trying to do just that by overseeing her daughter's ties with an obvious criminal? You have your opinion, and others will have other opinions.
Second, is a kid's personal privacy such a basic right that it cannot be overruled by the parent's right? And what about the mugging victim's rights in all of this? Again, you have your opinion, and others will have other opinions.
But with so many different opinions, how can we ever make sense out of situations like this? And how can we know which rights are more important than other rights?
Well, that's exactly what we're going to find out in this book. By the time you've finished reading the final chapter, I hope you'll understand the story of your own personal rights. It looks complicated, at first. But we're going to have some fun with all of this stuff, I promise you.
You see it all the time on TV.
On cop shows, on news programs like mine, someone is yelling, “Hey, I know my rights!”
Well, maybe that person does, but probably not.
Sometimes it's just a lot of stupid shouting. Showing off. Like the Spartans and Persians in the movie
They give a bad name to “discussion of rights.”
But, hey, your rights are very important to your life. In this country, the reason they exist at all is because smart, brave, honorable people foughtâand still fight!âto make them work for you and for every other American.
Especially you, kid.
Listen up: Even though you're not an adult yet, you're just as much an American as anyone is. That includes your parents, your teachers, your boss, and the cop on the block.
BUTâ¦do you have the same rights as they do?
No, you don't.
So, what's the difference?
Well, there are many, many differences. Sometimes the differences exist for good reasonsâ¦sometimes those reasons are debatable.
That's what this book is all about. When we finish this trip together, I hope you'll feel that you know more than most people your age (and maybe some adults, too) about what your rights as a kid actually are. (And are not.)
So, do any of these “rights” we've been talking about have anything to do with issues you really care about, like whether or not your school can keep you from wearing clothes that show off your bare midriff? Or whether your school locker can be searched by school officials without your permission? Or whether you can bring your date to the senior prom, even if she is enrolled at another school?
You bet they do. That is exactly what we're talking about. All of these are cases where you think you ought to be able to do something that other peopleâparents, school, communityâsay that you definitely cannot do.
Let's face it. Many American kids are complete morons. So are many American adults. As I say on TV, the Constitution gives all Americans the right to be a moron, and a lot of us exercise that right every day.
When I use the word
I am referring to people who are simply too lazy to figure out what their country is all about.
Yeah, they like the freedom to have fun and have stuff, but they don't want to learn about how that freedom came to them.
You, kid, are an American. You have an obligation to be a good citizen. That means that you should be honest and pay attention to what happens in the United States and in the rest of
the world, too. The iPods, computers, cell phones, and Black-Berries are fine, but you need to get out of yourself once in a while and look around in order to see and understand what is actually happening here in your America.
Many kids simply do not do that. Don't be one of them.
In this book, I'm not going to talk about your rights under criminal law. For example, I'm not going to discuss whether or not you will be tried as an adult or juvenile if you are accused of committing certain crimes. I hope you don't NEED to know any of that stuff. If you DO, you need a lawyer. What I want us to talk about are your rights as a law-abiding, hardworking, fun-loving individual kid. In other words, we're talking about your rights to a fair shake in life, when you give life a fair shake back.
Knowing your rights and respecting them will make you a better person and a more successful one. Just by reading this
book you are demonstrating that you are way ahead of the pack.
It's doubtful that Britney Spears would have read this book when she was your age. And look what's happened to her. The woman keeps forgetting her undergarments! I guess she has a right to do that but, I mean, come on!
I also want you to know a little bit about where your rights come from and (get this!) how, sometimes, you might be able to change things, when you feel that events controlled by someone else are unfair. Yes, that's possible. It's been done.
But don't be a wiseguy or wisegal. Standing up for your rights does not mean you should complain about every little thing that bugs you. Smarten up and appreciate the fact that you have opportunities kids in most other countries don't have. In China, if you mouth off to your teacher or parents, you could find yourself in a work camp. In the Muslim world, a bare midriff on a girl could get her a severe beating in front of the entire town. In Africa, millions of kids have little food to eat. Think about that the next time you pull up to McDonald's or Pizza Hut.
So I want you to know your rights, but I also want you to appreciate them and use them for everybody's well-being, not just your own. That's my plan here.
The truth will let you know how free you are, but it will not allow you to avoid your responsibility. That's correct: Kids have a responsibility to their country, parents, and brothers and sisters, as I've mentioned.
So, let's understand each other. We're going to be talking
about your rights according to the law. If you know how to con your parents, your teachers, or anyone else into letting you have your way all the time, that's something else. I don't want to hear about it. Shame on you, shame on them. This is not a book for selfish, spoiled brats. This is a book for kids who want to do what is right. Kids who want to be good Americans! I hope that's you!