Evanston resident creates ‘fun’ Constitution website

Susan Du

Retired ad man Pat Shiplett, a history enthusiast, is combining expertise in art production and marketing with his love for history to spearhead an awareness campaign for a special client: the U.S. Constitution.

Shiplett began the educational website ourconstitutionalrights.com two years ago but began making an effort to publicize it within the past week. He said his mission is to make constitutionally backed rights more accessible and understandable for the public by making them “fun” to read about.

The website homepage had this to say about the germ of American history:

“More than two hundred years ago, the American colonists got ticked off at the way England was jacking them around. They got so angry they worked up the Declaration of Independence and politely told King George III if he didn’t like it, he was welcome to shove it up his Royal Highness. Turned out to be a big freakin’ deal.”

Daily: What was your incentive for creating www.ourconstitutionalrights.com?

Pat Shiplett: It’s something that I love to do. I’ve been in the ad business my whole career, working with production in film and video and stuff. I got interested in constitutional rights because I did a series of political cartoons in various papers. I got to realize how important these rights are and how little we know about them and how poorly they sometimes come across in textbooks. I thought hey, I could take up the Constitution as an unofficial, pro-bono client and that’s what I did.

Daily: How does your experience in the advertising industry translate into what you’re doing now?

Pat Shiplett: There’s almost a direct parallel. I basically handled (the website) as I would a creative director in an advertising firm. I determined what the important things of the Constitution are to citizens. In normal marketing you’d call it the consumer benefit. I realized the most important things to us about the Constitution are the rights. The fact that the president takes office on a certain day doesn’t really matter to me, but if I get picked up by police it’s important to me to know my rights.

Daily: Who is your target audience?

Pat Shiplett: The target audience would be people somewhere between 16 and 30, older high school kids, community college kids in the inner city who might find it useful. I’ve been finding that a lot of people outside these age groups find it very interesting as well. There are many history buffs in the world, people who went to law school, poli-sci majors. There are also people who follow politics very closely or are involved in patriotic organizations. It’s still a relatively new operation so we’re learning as we go along and are getting glimpses into these groups.

Daily: Will your site cover the 2012 elections?

Pat Shiplett: I don’t know. I think that if some of the candidates claim to be representing the real Constitution … if some candidate takes a really strong constitutional stance and if they claim they represent the Constitution, then I suspect more people would go to the site. It also depends on how the media drives interest in the Constitution.

Daily: Will there be opportunities for Northwestern students to get involved with your site?

Pat Shiplett: I would love to have students – journalism students, history students, anybody interested who are web jockeys interested in web development. We have things they could do. Some of them might help us write blog stories, edit video, work on topics for quizzes, brainstorm about features that the site might come up with in the future. But of course this has been paid for out of my own pocket. I consider this a non-commercial, politically neutral, public service website. If anybody wanted to volunteer, I would talk to the school to see what opportunities there would be for collaboration.

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