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Supreme Court v. American Idol

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June 25, 2008

Working for the American Civil Liberties Union is serious business. We carry a heavy burden. Our slogan, after all, is “Because freedom can’t protect itself.” So it is understandable that in a time of Constitutional erosion, the ACLU is known for its furrowed brows and press releases that “Decry!” “Condemn!” and “Object!”

But there is a lighter side to the ACLU. We are happy people and we like to laugh — even at ourselves. I wanted others to see the well-rounded reality of the ACLU, which is why I made a video that highlights our sense of humor. Hopefully it shows us as more hip to pop culture, though it certainly doesn’t diminish the fact we are a serious and dedicated bunch when it comes to our issues.

My idea was to spoof Jay Leno’s “Jaywalking” segment on NBC’s Tonight Show. There, Leno stops tourists at Universal Studios and asks them grade-school civics questions. The tourists, who represent typical Americans, give glaringly wrong answers and the results are sometimes hilarious. I often thought ACLU staffers would ruin Leno’s comedy bit. They’d know all the right answers. But what would happen if I did “Jaywalking” in reverse? Maybe it’s funny to see clueless tourists try to decipher politics and the Supreme Court, but what do ACLU types know about pop culture and American Idol? I had my theory when I set up a camera and lights at this year’s ACLU Membership Conference in Washington, D.C. But there were plenty of surprises.

I want to thank all the ACLU staff and members who participated. Everyone had a lot of fun, even if it meant poking a little fun at themselves. The conference covered many weighty issues and our priorities were clear: in attendance were three U.S. Supreme Court justices and no American Idols. But my hope is this little video also proves that we know how to have a good time. Yes, we at the ACLU actually enjoy living in these United States — which is why we work so hard to protect its freedom.

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