(Daily Montanan) Mae Nan Ellingson, the youngest Delegate to the 1972 Montana Constitutional Convention, announced in a news release Monday the formation of Friends of the Montana Constitution, a Montana nonprofit and nonpartisan educational corporation.

The news release noted Friends, led by Ellingson, has three purposes as follows:

  • Promoting and enhancing the public’s understanding and appreciation of Montana’s 1972 Constitution;
  • Advancing civics education at all levels about the 1972 Montana Constitution; and
  • Recognizing and celebrating the 1972 Constitutional Convention and its delegates.

According to Ellingson, the 100 delegates to the 1972 Constitutional Convention, after adjournment of the Convention, formed a Constitutional Convention Society, which had purposes similar to Friends and “has over the last 50 years helped maintain an ongoing dialogue about Montana’s Constitution.

“The Society, by its terms, dissolves upon the death of the last delegate. With only 10 of the 100 delegates remaining, it is important to have a group in place to continue that work. Friends will fulfill that role,” Ellingson said in a statement in the news release.

Ellingson said remaining Delegates to the Constitutional Convention as well as the ConCon’s research analysts and key staff have been made ex officio members of the Friends organization.

“That is a way in which ‘Friends’ can recognize and celebrate those who toiled through the intensity of the 54-day Constitutional Convention and those who had worked in the years preceding that to pave the way for the convention and the delegates,” Ellingson said.

According to Ellingson, “knowledge about the substantial protections and rights afforded to Montanans by the Constitution needs to permeate our citizenry starting with teaching about them in the schools.”

She said Friends will also be establishing a speakers’ bureau so factual information about Montana’s Constitution can be available to citizens and that “membership in Friends will be open to anyone who supports the foundational document that has guided Montana over the last 50 years.”

The news release listed honorary co-chairs as former governors, Republican and Democrat, Ted Schwinden, Marc Racicot, Brian Schweitzer and Steve Bullock, as well as former U.S. Sen. and Ambassador Max Baucus.

Evan Barrett of Butte serves as vice chair and Nancy Leifer of Missoula serves as secretary/treasurer, the news release said.

According to Barrett, a Constitutional Convention historian, “the story of Montana’s Constitutional Convention and the Constitution itself are an inspiration far beyond our borders. Our Constitution is arguably the best state Constitution in America and serves as a model for Constitutional scholars around the world.”