Monday, November 23, 2009

What it means to be an American!

The Question: What civic value do you believe is most essential to being an American?

I believe that every right implies a responsibility; every opportunity, an obligation; every possession, a duty. 
—John D. Rockefeller, American philanthropist

Out of the ten civic values, responsibility is the most essential to being an American. This civic value has been seen throughout history from the days of Thomas Paine, construction of the constitution, President John F. Kennedy, as well as played out in our everyday lives as American citizens living in the twenty first century.

You can’t practice responsibility if you don’t know what it is. Responsibility means meeting and completing obligations promptly and willingly without expecting anything in return. Responsible citizens think about others and how their actions affect the people around them. With responsibility comes taking ownership for your actions whether they are good or bad and dealing with the consequences when necessary.

The founders of our country based its beginning on responsibility. The Declaration of Independence clearly states citizens have the right to “Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness.” Liberty requires people to show responsibility for themselves and for the common good. To have the right to “Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness” as stated, citizens need to be responsible. This would be accomplished through personal actions by obeying laws, volunteering, paying taxes, and voting. When citizens act responsibly, society benefits. It is the irresponsibility of people that makes society suffer at times. If everyone did his or her part, society as a whole would flourish tremendously. Being an American requires a strong sense of responsibility. Serving on jury duty is just one more way to take responsibility as an American.

Not only did the founding fathers of our country think that responsibility is essential to being an American, President John F. Kennedy couldn't’t agree more. One of his most famous lines ever is, “Ask not what your country can do for you. Ask what you can do for your country.” He was urging all citizens to take up more of a responsibility to help the common good of society. Responsibility can have a negative or positive connotation. It can be “negative” meaning exemption from blame and liability or “positive” meaning responsibility to help serve others. President John F. Kennedy did his part in being a responsible citizen. He served as military service commander during World War II before becoming involved in politics. President John F. Kennedy encouraged all people to do their part and show responsibility as American citizens.

Responsibility is a civic value that is surprisingly easy to follow. Just arriving places on time, getting your work done on time, even recycling are all examples of being a responsible citizen. Responsible people think about the consequences of their actions if they are not carried out thoroughly and promptly. It is the general public’s responsibility to practice the civic value of responsibility.

Throughout history, responsibility has been a civic value that is essential to being an American. With the writing of the Declaration of Independence, the founding fathers acknowledged its importance. In 1961, when President John F. Kennedy was sworn into office, he emphasized the importance of responsibility and how it will make for a better society if everyone does their part. Now it is up to us -- the newest generation -- to carry on the essential value of being an American by practicing responsibility. If every person does their part, whether in a big way such as joining the military or something as simple as caring for your family, paying taxes on time, or performing volunteer work, American society would be better off. Responsibility is an essential civic value of all Americans and should be held to higher standards.