“I know no safe depository of the ultimate powers of a society but the people themselves; and if we think them not enlightened enough to exercise their control with a wholesome discretion, the remedy is not to take it from them, but to inform their discretion.”
– Thomas Jefferson
It seems fitting that we reflect on Jefferson’s words and our role as a citizen now that summer is over and “we the people” get ready to elect the next President of the United States. As citizens in a democracy, we are ultimately responsible for the quality of our civic life. We live in very complex times. Today, we face widening disparities in the distribution of wealth, income, and education that are contributing to anger, angst, and for some hopelessness.
Now, more than ever, each of us needs to become more knowledgeable and proactive in our role as a citizen. Engaged citizens help create good government and healthy communities.
It’s not easy being a good citizen. It takes education, time, effort and vigilance. The rewards tend to be neither immediate nor gratifying and, in some instances quite costly. However, if we fail to act responsibly as citizens, we are harming ourselves as well as future generations.
In the absence of an informed electorate, politicians and special interest groups have the freedom to emphasize the significance of wealthy campaign donors, misstate facts, or lie outright, and divide us along economic, racial and ethnic identity.
If we want our government (local, state, federal) to promote and protect quality of life for all citizens, we need to take responsibility and educate ourselves and our children civic responsibility must be learned long before adulthood. Unfortunately, while we place an importance on teaching science, technology and math our schools are not prepared to teach civics. “It is imperative if we are going to survive as a nation that our schools teach civics. Knowledge and understanding about our system of government is not something that’s handed down in the gene pool. You have to learn it.” (Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor).
We need to develop in ourselves and in our children the skills necessary to gather information and make critical decisions. Our American Voice® and Teaching with Primary Sources are two programs that emphasize history, participatory activities, personal and community responsibility, and self-discovery.
The goal of this Citizen U blog is to educate, to showcase citizens young and old who understand that good people can and do good things. When we choose to exercise our responsibilities as citizens, government can breed satisfaction and pride rather than cynicism and distrust.
We want this to be a dynamic citizens’ forum and we invite you to add your voice, to submit your opinions, comments and community projects.