Heidi Schreck on “What the Constitution Means to Me”

Actress and playwright Heidi Schreck joins the program to speak about her Tony-nominated play “What the Constitution Means to Me.”

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HEIDI SCHRECK, WRITER AND ACTOR, “WHAT THE CONSTITUTION MEANS TO ME”: Certainly, 10 years ago, I was not thinking about a constitutional crisis or confrontation as some people are saying today. I was really thinking about how this document impacted and shaped my own life. So, the prompt for the contest when I was 15 years old was to draw a personal connection between your own life and the document. And of course, at 15, that was not easy for me to do. I didn’t know enough about myself, or really about the country or the document itself or the history of our country to do that in any meaningful way. And so, I thought it would be interesting to go back as an adult woman and say what would it mean to take the prompt of this contest seriously, like, how has this document actually shaped and impacted my life. And while I was doing that, while I was researching it and diving back into, you know, personal stories from my own life, I discovered the way that it had sort of changed and shaped and circumscribed the lives of four generations of women in my family.


SCHRECK: And I really delved into the stories of my great-great- grandmother, my great-grandmother, my grandmother and realized how deeply connected their lives were to this Constitution.

AMANPOUR: You focused on two particular amendments. So, let us know, tell us why you chose these two particular amendments.

SCHRECK: Sure. I chose the Ninth Amendment because — well, honestly, I chose the Ninth Amendment at first because as a teenager, it was my favorite amendment. I think it might be the amendment that appeals most to a teenager, because it’s quite mysterious, quite poetic. So, the Ninth Amendment says, “The enumeration in the Constitution of certain rights shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people,” which is just a — it’s a little amendment sitting right there in the Bill of Rights that says, you know, we couldn’t specifically list all the rights that you have here but we want to make sure that you understand that just because a right is not listed here, it doesn’t mean you don’t have that right. It doesn’t mean your state can’t pass a law, for example, granting you a certain right. It doesn’t mean that we’ve only — that the rights that we have written down are the only rights you have.

And I think as a teenager, I found this incredibly appealing, mysterious. And then when I revisited the amendment as an adult woman, I realized how powerful the Amendment was, and how deeply it had affected the rights of women in this country.

About This Episode EXPAND

Christiane Amanpour speaks with broadcaster Waleed Aly about his reaction to the Christchurch terrorist attack; and playwright Heidi Schreck about her play “What the Constitution Means to Me.” Alicia Menendez speaks with writer Ben Taub about his latest piece, “Guantánamo’s Darkest Secret.”