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