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He spoke nearly a century ago to the alumni of the College of the City of New York. had some very interesting thoughts about good citizenship. creating a political rule in the sovereignty of the people and launching an experiment in self-government." To talk about American citizenship. they wrote a constitution limiting power. MO 8 April 2004 by Lt. His remarks followed those by New York's Mayor: "I agreed when the Mayor said that there was not a man within hearing who did not agree that citizenship should be placed above everything else. Twain continued. they declared their independence based on self-evident truths.Gen. Think about what they did: they defeated the strongest military and economic power in the world. to see the world through the eyes of that remarkable generation who founded our nation. Have you ever thought about this? Is there a college in the whole country where there is a chair of good citizenship?" Mr. even learning. yes… but patriotism is usually the refuge of the scoundrel. we must return to our beginnings. You can place it above mathematics and literature. U. Transportation Command Responsibilities of Citizenship in a Time of Transition Mark Twain. but no real good citizenship taught… Patriotism.S. He is the man who talks the loudest. and that is where it belongs. "There is a kind of bad citizenship which is taught in the schools. USMC. and they created a framework of government . Gary Hughey. Deputy Commander. You can begin that chair of citizenship in the College of the City of New York. the world-renowned humorist and philosopher. secured rights while allowing for change through its own amendment.College of the Ozarks Citizenship Forum Point Lookout.
announced that. honorable citizen of good character. as he departed the Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia." Franklin and those other men of courage and wisdom knew that their experiment in self-government depended entirely on how future generations conducted themselves. They knew those citizens would have to be committed to the ideals of self-government and willing to get involved. Jefferson and the others understood that this nation depended not on the strength of laws." he replied. That is our responsibility. was guarantee that the experiment in self-government would succeed. it expects what never was – and never will be. what they saw ahead. "Our Constitution is in actual operation. Benjamin Franklin. everything appears to promise that it will last…" adding. or the economy. One of them. are in that category. "Genius" is used a lot. but on the daily life of an informed. At the end of the American Revolution. was that the republic could survive only with the care and protection of its citizens. involved. or military power. What they did not do.that bestows the same blessings of liberty on their posterity. Thomas Jefferson said it well." Franklin. to educate themselves about any and all issues effecting the life and health of that republic. couldn't do." When asked if the framers had created a monarchy or a republic. as citizens of the United States of America. James Madison wrote Congress' "Address to the States" and very clearly laid out our responsibilities: "The citizens of the United States are responsible for the greatest . wrote our constitution. but those who founded our nation. the challenge that has faced each generation of Americans ever since: "A republic. " …but in the world nothing is certain but death and taxes. "If a nation expects to be ignorant and free in a state of civilization. he framed the dilemma. perhaps with a wry grin. The genius of what they did. "if you can keep it.
that fade from our thoughts. honor. Certainly.trust ever confided to a political society. this "greatest trust".S. and an example will be set. the cause of liberty will acquire a dignity and luster. I see a U. we must re-examine. faithful generation. As we look at ourselves post 9/11. must be defended by the justice. . relearn the moral truths and enduring principles from which our experiment in self-government was born. But. and that America is not exempt from that danger. good faith. A healthy society is made of people who care about its future… people who contribute to its development for the common good… people who reject the "don't care" culture. if they're worth having. military in the midst of Global War on Terrorism. We are handed nothing less than an opportunity to recover those long-ago established purposes." Since September 11. one of the most prominent lessons is that the world is a dangerous place. If justice. 2001. We have relearned the things often forgotten. during times of peace and prosperity. gratitude and all the other qualities which ennoble the character of a nation and fulfill the ends of government be the fruits of our establishments. Our freedoms. From where I stand. To do this." These are our blessings. our self-government. which cannot but have the most favourable influence on the rights of Mankind. cannot be inherited. America is also in transition. which it has never yet enjoyed. our citizenship. I also see a military that is in great transformation. honor and gratitude of each subsequent. who're not always asking "what's in it for me"… people who are what I call "practicing citizens. we also should look back – not to recreate some mythical time in our history – but to reaffirm what has enabled us to arrive where we are today and what has made us great. to renew the transcending spirit of our founders. it is not a birthright. Americans have focused on the things that matter most: our families. our faiths and our freedoms.
Therefore it behooves us to do our best to see that the standard of the average citizen is kept high. canvass the neighborhood for a charity." Speaking to his generation." By what standard of good citizenship. the average women. of and for the people: " …success or failure will be conditioned upon the way in which the average man. or a thousand other details of your religious and civic life that can make our communities better. I don't know if anyone could have more precisely focused on what it takes to realize the full sense of government by. should we measure ourselves? Roosevelt's first answer is through involvement in the civic life of your community. or what he defined generally as politics. safer and stronger. The average citizen must be a good citizen if our republics are to succeed. To emphasize the point. first in the ordinary. and next in those great occasional cries which call for heroic virtues. . then." He continued. every-day affairs of life. and the average cannot be kept high unless the standard of the leaders is very much higher. "The stream will not permanently rise higher than the main source.Theodore Roosevelt spoke on this very theme during his "Citizenship in a Republic" remarks in 1910. he said that freedom is worth having. work the school board committees. does his or her duty. he offered some direct criticism of those who won't get involved: "People who say that they have not time to attend to politics are simply saying that they are unfit to live in a free community. and the main source of national power and national greatness is found in the average citizenship of the nation. the right to self-government is attainable.claim there's not enough time to attend ward meetings. that is in combination with our fellows who have the same interests and the same principles…" He had a rather low opinion of those who wouldn't get involved… those who – then and today -. only by "laboring in organization.
cannot remain sound. interests. In . voter turn-out in the presidential election was 48. dreams. Senate. he added that those who don't vote have no right to say that. sounding very much like Roosevelt.9 percent." Then. he said. cannot protect its citizens. in a different way. He said that the right action of all of us is made up of the right action of each one of us." In 1924. and if they fail to govern themselves some other power will rise up to govern them. they can get along: They must remember that their country and their countrymen cannot get along. Self-government through the rule of the people depends on the ballot box: "The people of our country are sovereign. It is not a spectator sport. Calvin Coolidge said much of the same thing. He said that the institutions of our country rest on faith in the people. when President Coolidge made those remarks. If they do not vote they abdicate that sovereignty. looking in. he returned it to the individual act of voting. unless those who have the right to vote do sustain and do guide the course of public affairs by thoughtful exercise of that right on election day. citizens – expressing their beliefs.He dismisses those who avoid involvement. and they may be entirely sure that if they relinquish it other forces will seize it. His answer was to put the excuse right back in their face: by getting involved. Specifically.S. those who claim it's demeaning to associate in the political arena. renewing qualities of decency and decorum -. even in the U. The two are inseparable. It can't be done from the outside. cannot preserve its institutions. cannot maintain its place in the world. has become too coarse. As Roosevelt. he returned the responsibility of self-government to the individual action. indistinguishable. political discourse. Not a lot has changed. A few years later. " The people of our country are sovereign…They have no right to say they do not care. whatever the result of the election. They must care!" And.raise the standard of public. convictions. those who say the public discourse.
The percentage of registered 18 to 24 year old voters also has dropped from 58. (According to latest data – 1996 election. moral. we have to look to Colombia.4 percent.6 percent in 1972 to about 32. seem to be voting in the same pattern as the rest of us. voting are the first responsibility of citizens.8 percent. were forever forming associations of a thousand different kinds: religious." Nor was the significance of a moral citizenry lost on George Washington. Count Alexis de Tocqueville. futile. religion and morality are indispensable supports. This foreigner saw something unique in Americans. Guatemala and Switzerland to find countries with lower voter turn-out than the United States. of all ages." It's ironic that some of the most insightful examination of our founders' ideas about morality and how it is to be nurtured is provided by reading the observations of the French aristocrat. observing that the American people " …are inherently independent of all but the moral law. very . Your generation. status and disposition. He noted that we. joining. All the rest of the world has a better record than we do. serious. he said. create morality in our individual lives. supporting. Arguably. What he saw in us was a culture quite different from others of his day. those 18 to 24 years. our next responsibility is to seek. his reports on America's culture and its impact on our political order is not matched by contemporary commentators. Thomas Jefferson was very blunt. "Of all the disposition and habits which lead to political prosperity. Today. In his farewell address. cultivate.) If getting involved. The youth vote has declined from 49. The founders' thinking was very clear on this point.9 percent in 1972 to 48. voter turn-out was 51 percent. one of the greatest social observers of his day. institutions.the 2000 presidential election. associations and at all levels of our government.
He observed that our involved discourse as citizens through our associations was indispensable. despots and devils pass." These little platoons were the first link in the chain through which responsibility and duty were translated into love of country and of mankind. and accomplish thousands and thousands of other large and small things. Most significantly he saw these associations as little schools of citizenship helping formulate democratic character. not anything else made America truly the land of the free as did the simple acts of coming together. not the law. That argument – that it's the prevalence of culture. distribute books. And. that all other forms of social and political progress depended on it. and – by the grace of God – America stands for all the best in mankind. . our nation. was building a central culture. local communities. were able to define and share a national character. throughout our world. large and small. He described these various associations as "little platoons. they formed an association to help them do it! These associations of free citizens were the engine of American freedom. very limited. of course. continued ever since. build hospitals and schools. he saw that what we do through our associations is real: we build churches. Most importantly he saw that what Americans were doing by meeting. not economics that determines free society – has. neighborhoods. feed the hungry. He was one of the first to understand that it was this culture – rather than economics – which determined the success of freedom.general. debating. interacting with each other in voluntary association. Not economics. de Tocqueville saw that if Americans wanted something done or if they wanted to proclaim or further a belief. From our love and loyalty to the little platoon grows a sense of broader service to our families. supporting truth in any way they could find it. The historical reality is that the parade of facists and fanatics. He observed that Americans. In early 19th century America.
by suggesting that they were actually partnerships -- not just between the living -- but between those who are living, those who are dead and those who are yet to come. It's difficult for me to express the sense of pride I experience, surrounded by young men and women who are taking a committed, deeply involved course with their lives; those citizens who've elected to serve their nation in uniform. I know, I see daily, that they – just as many of you – also are serving their communities, civic and religious organizations, schools and neighborhoods in ways that are not easily quantified, but which are essential to the success of self-governance, that connection of past, present and future. They have rejected the empty, soulless, small life of the uninvolved, passionless cynic. They dare to try. They step forward to serve. They -- just as you today – have the courage to care about things and examine ideas greater and bigger than their own self interest. Roosevelt's words about "Citizenship in a Republic," spoken, 96 years ago, have never better described those in our "little platoons": "It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is not effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat." The question for American citizens today is: How will we ensure our liberties and freedoms, how shall we preserve our great experiment? I can assure you that those who would destroy our moral culture and its
law-abiding. He reasoned that once these non-economic institutions – the universities. the social order would collapse. The Marxist philosopher. but did little to prevent the regime from pursuing those same actions. and of Gramsci's theory about the significance of institutions in guiding culture. again quoting Roosevelt. we should be neither . He's right. Note this well: During the entire time. Our responsibility is to seek the truth and live the truth with our fellow citizens. churches. courts. each according to the measure of his individual capacity. generally. when the citizens have abandoned them through neglect. The responsibility of every citizen is to ensure that the voice of liberty and truth is always and consistently heard in legislatures. God-fearing nation. One of the best proofs of Tocqueville's theories about Americans. Nazi Germany did not appear overnight. was proven between 1933 and 1939 in Germany. German law forbade many of the actions of the Nazi regime. wherever we can. Germany's moral culture was transformed from one founded on a Judeo-Christian ethic to one in which there was relatively little resistance to all sorts of horrible things. I'll close my remarks. the press – had been captured. It grew through the slow. Antonio Gramsci who wrote in the 1930s in Spain.essential impact in our political order have thought a lot about it. up to and including the extermination of entire categories of people. specifically. apathy and self-interest. Our responsibility is to enter the fight. argued that the surest way to establish communist society was to capture the cultural institutions of civil society. the churches. and in our homes. to keep trying and trying again. gradual deterioration in the moral-cultural environment of a literate. Our responsibility is to open people's eyes to the intellectual riches we've inherited. universities. whose words are just as relevant today as they were nearly a century ago: "In facing the future and in striving. to work out the salvation of our land.
and endeavor so to live as to deserve the high praise of being called a good American citizen. . but steadily fronting them should set to work to overcome and beat them down. We should recognize the dangers that exist and that threaten us: we should neither overestimate them nor shrink from them. May God bless America and those who ennoble the character of our nation. perils from individual laziness. do his full duty. according to the measure of his ability. May God grant us the courage to neither fear the struggle nor avoid our duty. but there is no reason why we should fear them or doubt our capacity to overcome them.timid pessimists nor foolish optimists. There is every reason why we should recognize them. Grave perils are yet to be encountered in the stormy course of the Republic – perils from political corruption." It is so. if only each will. indolence and timidity. perils springing from the greed of the unscrupulous rich. and from the anarchic violence of the thriftless and the turbulent poor.
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