For almost 23 years, Millie Aulbur has combined her loves of education and the law, helping teachers tell the story of the federal and state constitutions and the laws created under them.
Aulbur is the the Missouri Bar's "Citizenship Education" director.
"The survival of our country, as it was founded by the Constitution, will only survive if we are an informed citizenry," she explained, "and that's why education in the early years is crucial.
"The whole purpose of (our program) is to help teachers, in any way that we possibly can — and students understand our system of government, appreciate it, understand what it takes to keep it — and inspire them to want to keep it."
The program is offered to all schools in the state.
"None of this exists without the (U.S.) Constitution," Aulbur explained, during an interview last week in the Missouri Bar's law library. "If everything in these books does not have a tie-in with the Missouri or U.S. Constitutions, then it shouldn't be there.
"Even a United States Supreme Court case — and every law that Congress makes — has to have some tie to the Constitution."
So, the Citizenship Education program begins with a look at the Constitution and its signing on Sept. 17, 1787 — 230 years ago Sunday.
"The Constitution founded a country, a sovereign nation," Aulbur noted.
She noted the lawyers and philosophers who were our nation's founders and the Constitution's framers "founded this amazing system — when you look at the separation of powers and checks-and-balances, nobody does it better than the United States."
And, yes, she said, the federal and state constitutions and laws aren't always simple — and are subject to interpretation.
That's why the U.S. Supreme Court, the multi-judge appeals courts and their state counterparts don't always have unanimous rulings.
Judges "are not robots," Aulbur said. "Every judge brings to bear everything he or she has ever learned about government, and what they think the role of government is.
"I think all lawyers and judges — except for bad ones — have a respect and a good knowledge of the law and the Constitution. But you get divided courts because they are human beings."
The Citizenship Education programs teach students to respect the constitutions, the laws and the courts.
In this era when many courses are designed around education's testing requirements, Aulbur said, the program fits into Missouri's requirement students take civics, government and American history classes, as well as studying the U.S. and Missouri constitutions.
"We get lots and lots of teachers" who are interested in the programs' materials, she said. "Our programs are heavily content-oriented; we present every side of everything that we can possibly find — and try to be fair about it."
In addition to materials, the Bar's program offers workshops on various aspects of the constitutions, laws and government.
She said the programs seem to have more support in rural schools than in some of the metropolitan ones.
The program existed before Aulbur became its director in 1994, and it has kept basic principles even as it has changed over the years to meet teachers' changing needs.
Aulbur was raised on a farm, and graduated from the Laddonia-based Community R-6 School District in 1969, then headed for the University of Missouri-Columbia, where she earned a bachelor's degree in education in 1972.
She started teaching in Laddonia while also continuing at UMC in a master's degree program, which she finished in 1974.
After getting married and having two children, the family moved to Mexico, Missouri, and she taught at St. Brendan Catholic School from from 1979-87, when she made the decision to go to law school.
"My dad was a farmer, and we were brought up to respect lawyers and doctors," she recalled. "There was just a respect for their knowledge, I guess."
She added: "I'd always admired attorneys.
"I would sit on boards or be on advisory committees and, if there were attorneys, they were the problem solvers."
When her younger sister started law school in 1986, she encouraged Aulbur to follow suit by saying, "'I think you would love this,'" Aulbur explained. "I absolutely loved teaching, but I always thought that I wanted to do something else."
With her husband's encouragement, she enrolled at the UMC Law School, commuting from Mexico.
After graduating in 1990, she joined the Missouri attorney general's office and her husband got a banking job in Jefferson City.
"We both had job opportunities in St. Louis but, at the heart of it, we weren't city folk," Aulbur said. "We fell in love with Jeff City just working here, so we decided to move here."
Four years later, the education job opened up at the Missouri Bar, and she was encouraged to apply by a co-worker who told her, "Millie, this is the perfect job for you."
Aulbur was traveling with her sister when she was told she had gotten the job, during a call from a phone booth at a Hardee's restaurant in Roanoke, Virginia, Aulbur recalled.
She started in October 1994.
Aulbur and her husband both are retiring later this year, and plan to spend New Year's on a cruise, then go to the Cardinals spring training next year.
She's leaving other options open, she said, adding: "I have so many books. I'm going to start reading them — but it will take me to (age) 110 to read every book I have at home that I haven't read."