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Through portrayals of the famous (Supreme Court Justices William O. Douglas and William Brennan) and the not-so-famous (Anthony Griffin, a black lawyer who, as an ACLU volunteer, defended the First Amendment rights of the Ku Klux Klan), Nat Hentoff pays tribute to American citizens whose lives embody the values and principles of the U.S. Constitution. For Hentoff, that means a strict insistence on individual rights that leaves him opposed to mandatory prayer and pledges of allegiance in schools, the suppression of prisoners' civil liberties, and quota-based affirmative action programs. President Bill Clinton emerges as a particular object of Hentoff's scorn, as much for conducting an official state meeting with the chief architect of the Tiananmen Square massacre as for domestic policies, such as the failed Communications Decency Act, that are an ""evisceration of basic liberties."" ""Unless more Americans know the Constitution and live the Bill of Rights,"" Hentoff argues, ""the future of the nation as a strongly functioning constitutional democracy will be at risk."" Although you may not agree with Hentoff's particular authorial focus--First Amendment enthusiasts will be thrilled with his emphasis on free expression, while Second Amendment advocates will have to search elsewhere for their champion--Living the Bill of Rights should make more Americans think about what it means to be an American.

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