Todd Richardson

Todd Richardson discusses Constitution with PBJHS students
Posted on 03/01/2022
Todd Richardson

State official Todd Richardson drew on both his experience serving as Missouri House of Representatives speaker and as a lawyer in the private sector during a recent Q&A with Poplar Bluff Junior High students studying the Constitution.

Social studies teacher Kathy Pattillo introduced Richardson as a “true American patriot” to her We The People elective class along with eighth grade advanced history students on Friday, Feb. 11, in the gymnasium, stating that the alumnus has “devoted his life to upholding the Constitution.”

Before answering a range of questions submitted by students, Richardson, who currently directs MO HealthNet – Missouri’s Medicaid program, provided a brief refresher of the history of the Constitution.

The first government document, prior to the Constitution, was the Articles of Confederation written amid the Revolutionary War, Richardson established with the students. Later on, the Bill of Rights was adopted because, he explained, there was "too much federal power" and "not enough constitutional rights” for states. There is “power in those amendments,” said Richardson, “and a lot of wisdom.”

Sharing what initially piqued his interest in politics, Richardson recalled that when he was a student at PBHS, his father Mark served in the Missouri General Assembly. Richardson learned that when “good people are engaged in public service, they can do a lot of good for the community they represent.”

Asked for advice by Elle Wiseman for aspiring politicians or attorneys, Richardson said besides honing communication skills, both verbal and written: “All it takes is a desire to make things better, and a willingness to work hard.” He later advised students to become engaged in their community. “You have a unique opportunity to learn and decide what you’re gonna be in life.”

Eighth grader Lucas Reasons inquired who Richardson’s favorite president was, and he replied Ronald Reagan, who he said he had a chance to watch speak in Cape Girardeau. According to Richardson, President Reagan was a great communicator, who could “speak for the common people” as well as “be a fierce advocate for the best of us in the United States,” and he had the ability to “entice” people to want to do better.

Richardson pointed out how when he was growing up, a person’s voting preference was a private matter, but that changed in the age of social media. Yet even though a citizen may be a member of the opposite political party “doesn’t mean you can’t be friends, and work on a lot of things together,” he said.

Asked by Addy Moss what the most significant constitutional law is, Richardson responded that a “good case could be made for freedom of speech, assembly and religion – the core things that help define the Constitution.” The 13th and 19th Amendments are “critical,” he added, “ending slavery and giving women the right to vote.”

“We need them all,” continued Richardson, “but if you want to pick one that sets the stage for exactly the way the government is structured, take a look at the 10th. I think that’s how I would answer that,” he said, previously summarizing: “Certain things only the federal government can do, and the rest is left to the states.”

Richardson’s oldest child Sawyer, who attends Junior High, asked his father to talk about his role as the speaker of the House of Representatives. “The speaker of your house or the House,” Richardson quipped.

Richardson was named presiding officer over the Missouri House during the last three years of his run, before terming out in 2019. While in office, he made time to serve as a special guest for Pattillo on multiple occasions, one year even hosting I’m A Citizen, Too students in Jefferson City. We The People is an extension of the summer enrichment class.

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Cutline: Former Speaker of the Missouri House Todd Richardson visits PBJHS last month to review the Constitution with students.

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