Joshua Heath: My dream: to write the great American law


All my life I’ve loved words, have been reading, writing, and speaking them since as long as I can remember. At first glance, one would think someone like myself would dream of becoming a novelist or poet but that’s not the case: I want to be a lawmaker.

Why? The making of laws is the highest form of writing a person can do, more noble than writing for the stage, the screen, or a novel. Individuals involved in these endeavors perform a valuable service for sure; through their art they inspire and enrich the lives of us all.

But most literary works only affect the fantasy world the author created, not life as it is truly lived. A novelist may write a book where his hero ends child hunger, but even after it’s published, millions of children will continue to starve in America.

The words a lawmaker crafts, however, can transformatively change reality; they can, as President Kennedy said, “undo the heavy burdens and let the oppressed go free.”

To explain exactly what I mean — last October, many heard about the devastating death of Katie Evans, a local mother of six. Katie was driving home from the hospital after visiting her newborn twins, when a drunk driver collided head-on with her vehicle. Nothing can be done to bring back this innocent soul, but through legislation, we can ensure that future mothers, on some distant night, can go home to their families instead of dying tragically.

Specifically technology has been crafted that would solve the issue of drunk driving for all time. A team of independent researchers, in collaboration with the federal government, have developed a car feature that detects alcohol on human breath. If an individual is found to be dangerously impaired, their vehicle will not start.

If Congress were to pass a law requiring this technology in all new automobiles, drunk driving would end forever. Thousands of innocent people would go on to live and prosper instead of dying at the hands of reckless individuals on the road.

That single bill would be one powerful piece of writing.

Or consider a real-life case from recent history — the 1965 Immigration and Nationality Act was shepherded into law by the 88th Congress. This legislation ended the unjust policy of awarding almost all immigrant visas to those from European countries, which made it very difficult for folks from Asia, Africa, and Latin America to become U.S citizens.

That racist practice, supported by the Ku Klux Klan, was designed to ensure America remained a majority-white country. With the 1965 bill, Congress implemented new rules that gave everyone a roughly equal chance at American citizenship, regardless of where they came from.

In the decades since its passage, it has been an instrumental force in making the U.S a true melting pot, populated by citizens from every corner of the world. The founding fathers dream — that the United States would be a haven for all humanity — has at last been fulfilled.

In total, the legislation is only 7,500 words long, but each of its nouns, verbs, and adjectives served to bend the arc of American history, and bring justice into the lives of millions.

When I think about these facts, I can’t help but be inspired to pursue public office someday, and try my own hand at writing a Great American law.

Joshua Heath is a Valencia resident and a political science student at UCLA. He has served two terms as a delegate to the California Democratic Party.

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