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How a College Student's "C" Paper Led to a Constitutional Amendment

Gregory Watson, photo by Jorge Sanhueza-Lyon/KUT

In 1789, James Madison proposed an amendment to govern how members of Congress could give themselves salary raises.

The proposed amendment was sent to the states for ratifications but was largely forgotten until a 19-year old student at the University of Texas at Austin named Gregory Watson wrote a paper on the subject in 1982.

Watson noticed that the amendment, though almost two centuries old, didn't have a deadline on it, so he proposed that it be revived and ratified. He turned in the paper ... and got a "C" on it because his professor thought that it was "unrealistic."

[Watson] didn’t know what to make of it. He was sure it was better than a C.

He appealed the grade to the professor, Sharon Waite.

“I kind of glanced at it, but I didn't see anything that was particularly outstanding about it and I thought the C was probably fine,” she recalls.

Most people would have just taken the grade and left it at that. Gregory is not most people.

“So I thought right then and there, ‘I'm going to get that thing ratified.’”

Read this fascinating story by Matt Largey over at KUT of how one man's not-so-great grade on a college paper started him on a decade-long quest that ended up with The Twenty-seventh Amendment to the United States Constitution.

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