Good Citizen Checklist •
ELEMENTS OF C I T I ZENSHI P
Read the U.S. founding documents
Register to vote, and vote in all elections
It’s human nature to resent the government, even when it’s your elected government, taking its share of your income. But it’s also human nature to demand the conveniences, improvements and protections that our taxes fund. Taxes pay for highways, police and fire protection, military forces, clean water and safe food. They make possible the public schools, libraries and parks. Taxes represent the cost of our government doing business. They are determined by the people we elect to office, whomwe give the right to allocate our money where it is needed. Serve in the Military Probably the greatest of all governmental powers is the power to declare war. Every American’s deepest hope is that we will never have to fight another war. But, if military conflicts arise, the military will keep us safe. Serve in the military and support our troops. Respect Other People The United States was founded by immigrants from other lands who were bound by shared American values. We do not have one particular culture, religion or heritage, but rather many that have been brought to our shores by immigrants from around the world. Tolerance is not only “putting up” with other people who are different from us. It’s the spirit of trying to understand them. Respect the dignity of every person you encounter, even if their views differ from yours.
Stay informed on national and local issues
Voice your opinions to your elected officials
Respect police officers and firefighters
Volunteer for charitable causes
Join the military or service organizations (e.g. Peace Corps)
Protect the environment by recycling and conserving energy
Be a good neighbor and respect diverse opinions
Support Education and Schools AMassachusetts law enacted in 1647 founded the first system of public education in the American colonies. Today, every state has a compulsory education law and publicly controlled schools that are free and open to everyone. Learning does not stop with any graduation or degree, but is a lifelong pursuit. Thus, education is nowmore important than ever. Our nation’s future depends on educated citizens who will commit to learning the skills that will lead us into the future. Give Back As citizens, each of us has an obligation to make our community a better place. Giving back means giving of your time and abilities; it means helping to paint an elderly person’s home, cleaning trash from a lake, coaching a local sports team or answering phones at a hotline number.
❝ JOHN F. KENNEDY, PRES IDENT ( 1961 - 1963 ) My fellow Americans, ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country.
Obey Our Laws
Our system of self-government protects people’s rights through the rule of law, which restricts the arbitrary use of power by limiting it to established laws. If you were ever accused of a crime, you would still have the right to a speedy trial by jury because of the Sixth Amendment. Thus, laws are put in place to ensure everyone is treated fairly and society functions as a whole. No one in this country is so important that they are above the law, or so unimportant that they can’t depend on the law for protection.
Honor the Past
The United States was founded by visionary leaders who created a great nation through their words and actions. With this in mind, on the pages that follow are some of the documents and speeches that have shaped who we are as a nation and which provide the blueprint for who we have the potential to become. ✦
8 | HOW TO BE A GOOD AMER I CAN C I T I ZEN
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