What is a good citizen?
An effective citizen is someone who takes time away from their “pursuit of happiness” to do things that sustain our freedoms and keep the country safe.
These things, call them citizen actions, are done on a day-to-day, week-to-week basis; when the opportunities arise; and when action is needed. Some are easy, some are fun and some require sacrifice.
A good citizen also:
- believes the country is worth keeping strong,
- understands the importance of citizen involvement in a democracy, and
- appreciates the impact of a single act and of millions of single acts.
How to be an effective citizen?
One is an effective citizen by doing things that:
- Remind us of our heritage
- Involve us in the democratic process
- Support individuals with a special responsibility for keeping the country strong
- Help us better understand the workings of our government
- Promote a sense of community
- Keep individuals and families strong
And by doing these things, call them citizen actions, on a day-to-day basis when the opportunities arise and when action is needed, one plays an important role in keeping our democracy strong.
Unfortunately, most of us aren’t effective citizens. As evidence of this, consider that voting is often considered the measure of a good citizen yet fewer than 40 percent of eligible voters actually vote.
Is good character the same as being a good citizen?
Many confuse having good character with being a good citizen. They aren’t the same. It would be similar to saying that having good character is the same as being a good parent or being a good manager.
Character relates to the quality of one’s actions such as acting in a manner that is honorable, courageous, compassionate, and/or ethical.
Good citizenship relates to the type of one’s actions such as actions that remind us of our heritage or involve us in the democratic process.
As Aristotle, the ancient Greek philosopher, said “It’s not always the same thing to be a good man and a good citizen.”
The Character Education community has a character development program called The Six Pillars of Character. It is used by many school districts. One of the pillars is called Citizenship. While citizenship may not be, in theory, a “pillar of character” and while the Six Pillars of Character description of citizenship is a bit limited, the program is of value in introducing the basics of citizenship to kids and young adults.
Lions Quest is another program used in many school districts. Its focus is on youth development and includes effective citizenship.
How to teach citizenship?
There are two K-12 programs that have a citizenship component and introduce citizenship to kids and young adults – The Six Pillars of Character and Lions Quest.
However, neither program teaches kids and young adults how to be effective citizens and both have the traditional narrow view of citizenship meaning voting, jury duty, and occasional community service. Neither has the proper definition of citizenship. However both programs are valuable as they are currently used in many school districts and they introduce the idea of citizenship.
Good Citizen is developing materials and resources that can be easily integrated into existing social studies curricula for teaching K-12 students how to be effective citizens.
What are some quotes about being a good citizen and about citizenship?
“Freedom is never more than one generation away from extinction. We didn’t pass it to our children in the bloodstream. It must be fought for, protected, and handed on for them to do the same.”
— President Reagan
“All that is needed for the triumph of evil is for good people to do nothing.”
— Edmund Burke, British statesman and philosopher (1729 – 1797)
“Americans need a broader view of citizenship – it goes well beyond voting, jury duty, and community service.”
– Nick Homer, Executive Director – Good Citizen
“Ask not what your country can do for you – ask what you can do for your country.”
– John F. Kennedy, 1961 Inaugural Address – 35th President of the U.S. (1917 – 1963)
“We don’t need a war on drugs, a war on crime, or a war on poverty. What we need is a war on complacency.”
– Nick Homer, Executive Director – Good Citizen – (August 2004)
“The freedoms and privileges afforded every citizen in our democracy are unwittingly being threatened by the very citizens they were designed to benefit. The term ‘American Citizen’ is too often considered to be a status, gained either through birth or naturalization, rather than a role to be fulfilled.”
– Matthew Horton – Good Citizen Director (August 2003)
“Patriotism is not short, frenzied outbursts of emotion, but the tranquil and steady dedication of a lifetime.”
– Adlai E. Stevenson, Jr – American statesman and diplomat – twice Democratic presidental candidate – (1900 – 1965)
“It’s not always the same thing to be a good man and a good citizen.”
– Aristotle, Ancient Greek Philosopher, Scientist and Physician
“Bad officials are elected by good citizens who do not vote.”
– George Jean Nathan, American Journalist, Critic, Essayist and Editor, (1882-1958).
“ A passive and ignorant citizenry will never create a sustainable world.”
– Andrew Gaines, creativity trainer, sustainability philosopher, b 1938
“The ‘Silent Majority’? There is no ‘Silent Majority’. It’s an oxymoron. In a democracy, when the majority is silent, they are the minority.”
– Nick Homer, Executive Director – Good Citizen (May 2003)
“We have fallen heirs to the most glorious heritage a people ever received, and each one must do his part if we wish to show that the nation is worthy of its good fortune.”
– Theodore Roosevelt, 26th President of the United States
A quote from Ross Perot – click
What is Freedom?
Freedom is an environment where one is allowed to:
- say what they want without being punished,
- pray or not pray as they see fit,
- travel where and when they want,
- be different and know they are okay,
- know they are safe and can count on others,
- attend school and learn so they can support themselves when they grow up,
- work hard to become what they love and are good at,
- make money for food, shelter, and support a family,
- have clean water, sanitation, and ample food available.
And, freedom is an environment where one has the responsibilty to do what is necessary to sustain freedom for future generations.
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