Essay On Rights And Responsibilities Of Citizens Definition

Introduction

I thank you for affording me the opportunity to address you at the commencement of this your First Meeting of the Seventh Parliament. My wife and I are extremely happy to be here with you today.

I must stress that although this message is being delivered in this Honourable House, it is aimed at the general public, since I have assumed that Honourable Members are versed with their civil rights and civic duties and responsibilities. My comments here today may merely serve as a reminder.

Madam Speaker, Honourable Members,

The Constitution

The constitution of a country tells us at least, what the society to which it relates aspires to be, where individual rights stand in its political system and scale of values, and generally how the civil rights of its citizens will be protected.

The Constitution of our country confers certain fundamental rights and freedoms on every person in Dominica. These include the right to life, the protection of the right to personal freedom, the protection of the right to personal liberty, protection from inhuman treatment, protection from slavery and forced labour, protection from the deprivation of property, protection from arbitrary search or entry, protection of freedom of conscience, protection of freedom of expression, protection of freedom of assembly and association, protection of freedom of movement and protection from discrimination on the grounds of sex, race, place of origin, political opinions, colour or creed.

The Constitution presupposes that we have always enjoyed these rights and freedoms and it merely reinforces our entitlement to them. These rights and freedoms have been made subject to respect for the rights and freedoms of other persons, and subject to the public interest. The enjoyment of these rights and freedoms, which are guaranteed by the Constitution, are therefore circumscribed by limitations which are designed to ensure, that their enjoyment by any person does not prejudice the rights and freedoms of others, and does not go against the public interest.

The provisions which guarantee the right to personal liberty and the protection from discrimination on the grounds of sex, race, place of origin, political opinions, colour or creed may, however, be curtailed in times of public emergency. The Constitution itself provides that nothing which is contained in or done under the authority of any written law enacted by Parliament, can be held to be inconsistent with or in contravention of those provisions to the extent that that law authorizes the taking, during any period of public emergency, of measures that are reasonably justified for dealing with the situation that exists in the State during that period of emergency.

The Constitution also provides for the means by which these rights may be enforced. This jurisdiction is firmly vested in the High Court, and if a constitutional matter is raised in the course of proceedings in any other court, that matter must be transferred to the High Court for the adjudication of the constitutional aspect of the case, unless in the opinion of the person who is presiding in that other court, the raising of the question is merely frivolous or vexatious. The High Court may, however, decline to exercise its powers if it is satisfied that the applicant has adequate means of redress available to him under any other law.

The rights afforded to the individual by the Constitution are public law rights and are meant to protect him against the contravention of those rights by the State or some other public authority to which the law has given coercive powers. It is not meant to be invoked as a private law remedy by one private individual against another, since it is generally accepted that private law rights are already sufficiently provided for in the normal legal system of the State.

Madam Speaker, Honourable Members

Rights, Duties and Responsibilities

It is important to note the distinction between ordinary rights and fundamental rights. Ordinary rights can be protected by action against citizens, and also against unauthorized or unlawful State interference; but these rights will not be protected by court action that will compel Parliament to amend the offending legislation or to abrogate it. Fundamental rights, by contrast, may or may not be protected against infringement by citizens. In fact, some fundamental rights can often be asserted only against State agencies, but these rights do enjoy a measure of protection against any State interference; including repeal or restriction of the right by the legislature through its ordinary law making procedure.

To every right there is a correlative duty. Rights imply duties, one cannot exist without the other. For every given right there must be a corresponding duty. These legal duties exist to enable those who wish to enforce their civil rights to identify a defendant against whom actions may be brought. In other words a civil right can only be enforced against a person who owes the applicant a legal duty.

But in addition to these legal duties the law places obligations on persons by virtue of their citizenship. These obligations are referred to as civic duties and responsibilities. The citizen must therefore, be as fully aware of his civic duties and responsibilities, as he is of his rights; and the public- spirited citizen will always try to strike a balance, and find a proper relationship, between his rights and his duties and responsibilities. If we attach undue weight to individual rights at the expense of our duties and responsibilities we could create an excessive individuality which could easily blind us to the needs of the Community or the State to which we belong.

We should, therefore, be just as concerned with our duties and responsibilities as we are with our rights; and it is imperative that we try hard to find the proper relationship between rights and duties and responsibilities. A democratic society requires the active participation of its citizens in the affairs of the nation, as well as the awareness by its citizens of their civic duties and responsibilities. In order for government to be effective, citizens must fulfil their civic duties.

Citizens who choose not to fulfil their civic duties face legal consequences. On the other hand civic responsibilities are fulfilled by choice. They are voluntary.

Civic duties include, for example, obeying the laws of the country, paying the taxes levied by the government, or serving on a jury or as a witness in court. Civic responsibilities encompass actions like registering to vote and voting, and serving on statutory boards and committees. The government, Civil Society organizations and the individual citizen all have a role to play not only in ensuring that the right conditions exist for the protection and enforcement of fundamental rights, but also for the exercise of civic duties and responsibilities.

Here are some notable examples of civic responsibilities. It is the responsibility of citizens

  • to take action wherever they can to improve their own economic, cultural and social development, and to promote self-reliance ;
  • to give a fair day’s work for a fair day’s pay;
  • to act with integrity, sharing with others, caring for others, promoting sound values, and guiding the next generation;
  • to participate actively in affairs that affect them by joining with others to create resources and facilities in their communities, and
  • to build leaders in their communities by identifying and nurturing people who can take responsibility for themselves and for other people.

Civil Society organizations also have civic responsibilities and a role to play in building and moulding good citizens. In order to do this they –

  • should help to create a good society by educating people in issues relating to active citizenship;
  • should play a central role in making citizens aware of their rights and responsibilities, and prepare them to undertake those rights and responsibilities;
  • should build community leadership through facilitating access to information and training, and
  • should play an effective role in promoting a strong, capable and responsible Civil Society which is able to work in partnership with an active and equally responsible State.

In view of the unequivocal obligations imposed on all States by universal human rights instruments, it is the responsibility of governments –

  • to uphold the constitution and ensure that fundamental human rights are guaranteed and observed;
  • to enable citizens to participate effectively in governance through freedom of expression and the media, freedom of association and assembly, and the right to information in all its forms;
  • to ensure the full practical realization of human rights including the economic, cultural, environmental, and social rights of all citizens with particular attention to disadvantaged groups such as children and the physically challenged.
  • to work with citizens and Civil Society organizations to ensure equal opportunities, and the equitable distribution of the resources of the State;
  • to sustain the physical, natural and human resources of the country; and invest in the infrastructure and other services that will enable citizens to develop appropriate economic and social ventures;
  • to create an enabling legal and political environment for the smooth functioning of Civil Society organizations;
  • to develop and implement measures, which involve Civil Society organizations and citizens, to avoid maladministration and ensure transparency and credibility in the body politic;
  • to share information, consult citizens and encourage debate on matters of national concern, so that citizens may be in a position to hold public leaders and officials accountable for their actions, and
  • to demonstrate tolerance of dissent. In this regard it is imperative that whether or not the voices are appreciative or critical, informed or ignorant, narrow or holistic, precise or vague, they have a right to be heard. Disagreement must not be treated as either a sin or a crime.

Madam Speaker, Honourable Members,

Patriotism

I would like to add a few words here about patriotism, or the idea of national pride. It is generally recognized that in order to build an economy and improve the social services of a State one needs to increase the national pride of the country. Please permit me to quote from the 206th. State of the Territory address delivered by the Chief Minister of the legislature of the British Virgin Islands last month –

“This pride is not about entitlement, or about being better than any other nation. It is about being self-aware. It is about knowing our history and honouring the sacrifices of our ancestors. It is about valuing our unique culture and preserving it in the modern world. It is about cherishing our sacred traditions and passing them on to our children. And it is about uplifting our community so that the success of one is properly understood as the success of all.”

In the Independence Day Message of 1990 the late Dame Eugenia Charles articulated the importance of recognizing the achievements of Dominican Nationals. Following her usual inimitable style the Dame put it this way –

“We should never be afraid to applaud our people when they do well because that is the source of our pride. Too often we tend to take a negative attitude to success among ourselves. We tend to look upon the successful among us with envy and even with disapproval. We do not recognize that successful achievement by anyone of us adds to the success of our nation. Success is to be emulated, not despised or disapproved. Success by anyone of us adds to the pride that we feel towards our country. Therefore, let us not turn in envy at the success of our fellow citizens. Let us rather emulate it and be proud of it because it is what will make our country great.”

[This quotation is taken from a new book by Justice Irving W. Andre entitled “Dr. Desmond O. N. McIntyre – The Surgeon who transformed Primary Health Care in Dominica”]

Patriotism connotes love and loyalty to one’s own country and the country that we generally love is the country of our birth. A patriot supports his country, is inspired by it, cares deeply for it and is prepared to serve and defend it. Genuine patriotism of its citizens is of great benefit to any country. A man ought to be proud of the place to which he belongs. Patriotism gives a country’s people a common purpose, and rallies them to support their government in time of need.

In order that our country may prosper and thrive in the future, we ought to cultivate a spirit of common purpose and patriotism – a sense of national pride. The true patriot is proud of his country’s virtues and is eager to correct its deficiencies; but he also acknowledges the legitimate patriotism of those who belong to other countries with their own specific virtues.

Patriotism should not be conditional, but the citizen should not be so blinded by it that he is unable to face reality. The genuine patriot owes his duty to the country and not necessarily to its leaders. Therefore wrong is wrong, no matter who does it or says it. Criticism is not unpatriotic. We could do well always to remember the words of Mark Twain who said - “Patriotism is supporting your country all the time, and the government when it deserves it.” Bu the context and timing of criticism should also be appropriate. Sir Winston Churchill illustrates this in one of his utterances – “When I am abroad I always make it a rule never to criticize or attack the government of my own country. I make up for lost time when I come home.”

It is also very important to distinguish between patriotism and nationalism. The difference is vital since nationalism is often mistaken for patriotism. The patriot has a form of affection to his country somewhat akin to family love. One loves his family because it is his, and so far as he is concerned that bond which draws him to other members is unbending. The patriot therefore loves his country because he belongs to it. He can laugh at it in the same way that members of a family laugh at each other’s foibles; since affection takes for granted the imperfection of those whom it loves. Nationalism, on the other hand, has often been said to be grounded in resentment and rivalry. It is militant by nature and its typical style is belligerent. The nationalist has to prove that his country is always right.

We also ought to be extremely careful to ensure that love for our preferred political party does not in any way compete with our love for country, since love for party often manages somehow to commingle itself with patriotism. We must at all times be on our guard and avoid becoming so beholden to our respective political parties that we find ourselves unable to place love of country ahead of the particular political party which we support. The good citizen must always place his or her patriotism beyond the sphere of political affiliation because patriotism does not consist of putting our blind trust in anything that our political leaders tell us.

Madam Speaker, Honourable Members

Civic Education

I turn, finally, to the question of civic education. In order to create the kind of citizenry which we would wish for the twenty-first century, one needs to establish a system of civic education. Citizens should not only be made aware of their rights, duties and responsibilities; they should also be prepared, so that they are able to exercise those rights, become aware of their duties and to undertake their responsibilities willingly. Spreading the message of good citizenship can be done in many ways. One example could be by documenting information about those citizens whose attainments ought to be emulated; and honouring those who have demonstrated consistent good citizenship. There can be no better way to promote good citizenship than to recognize it wherever it exists.

Civic education is an important avenue through which citizens could be educated about the important role that they are expected to play in the development of their country. This will serve to widen the relationships among individuals and groups. It should also bring about a sense of duty and responsibility in each individual towards the family, the community and the nation at large, through a shared understanding of the value of rights, duties and responsibilities.

If we focus our civic education activities on young people especially on our students, there is the added advantage that they will be caught at an age where they could be more easily taught to develop the necessary skills and attitude to appreciate the values and moral judgement which are necessary to create social consciousness. In fact the use of the school or college could prove to be the most effective means of bringing positive transformation in the attitude, nature and character of our students by instilling in them the spirit of mutual understanding, and co-operation, friendship, love and respect which should be shown towards others.

It is perhaps only through civic education that we could succeed in creating the kinder and gentler society which continues to elude us. We would also be able to give life to that part of our National Pledge in which we promise to give our love, our loyalty and skills, in the service of our country; and to work diligently to help build a prosperous and peaceful nation.

Madam Speaker, Honourable Members

I pray for God’s blessings and his peace for all Members of this Honourable House, on everyone else here today and on all the inhabitants of this country, as I extend to you every good wish for a fruitful and successful session.

I thank you for your patience and attention.

"Cherish, therefore, the spirit of our people, and keep alive their attention. If once they become inattentive to the public affairs, you and I, and Congress and Assemblies, judges and governors, shall all become wolves. It seems to be the law of our general nature."

- Thomas Jefferson (Letter to Edward Carrington January 16, 1787)

Background And Original Intent

"A good constitution is the greatest blessing which a socie­ty can enjoy." So said James Wilson, in his oration at Philadelphia on July 4, 1788, celebrating the adoption of the Constitution of the United States. Wilson, who signed both the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution, preached startlingly democratic theories - more democratic than the ideas of any other delegate to the Constitutional Convention. Yet Wilson emphasized the duties, as well as the rights, of citizens:

"Need I infer, that it is the duty of every citizen to use his best and most unremitting endeavours for preserving it [the Constitution] pure, healthful, and vigorous? For the accomplishment of this great purpose, the exertions of no one citizen are unimportant. Let no one, therefore harbour, for a moment, the mean idea, that he is and can be of no value to his country: let the contrary manly impres­sion animate his soul. Every one can, at many times, perform, to the state, useful services; and he, who steadily pursues the road of patriotism, has the most inviting prospect of being able, at some times, to perform eminent ones."

Wilson's argument is quite as sound now as it was two centuries ago. The success of the American Republic as a political structure has been the consequence, in a very large part, of the voluntary participation of citizens in public affairs - enlisting in the army in time of war; serving on school boards; taking part unpaid in political campaigns; petitioning legislatures; sup­porting the President in an hour of crisis; and in a hundred other great ways, or small-assuming responsibility for the com­mon good. The Constitution has functioned well, most of the time, because conscientious men and women have given it flesh.

The Premises of Americans' Responsibility Under the Constitution of 1787

  • The Framers' first assumption was that all just authority for government comes from the people, under God; not from a monarch or a governing class, but from the innumerable citizens who make up the public. The people delegate to government only so much power as they think it prudent for government to exercise. Government is the people's creation, not their master. Thus, if the people are sovereign, it is the citizens' responsibility to take upon their shoulders the task of seeing that order, justice, and freedom are maintained.
  • The Framers' second assumption was that American citizens would undertake responsibility for the ordinary functioning of the civil social order and that local communities would manage their own affairs. Under their system, the roles of the various levels of government would be minimal and would not unnecessarily intrude into the day-to-day lives of the citizens.
In the matters which most immediately affect private life, power should remain in the hands of the citizens, or of the several states - not in the possession of federal government. So, at least, the Constitution declares. Americans have no official cards of identity, or internal passports, or system of national registration of all citizens - obligations imposed upon citizens in much of the rest of the world. This freedom results from Americans' voluntary assumption of responsibility. In matters of public concern, it was the original intent to keep authority as close to home as possible. The lesser courts, the police, the maintenance of roads and sanitation, the levying of real-property taxes, the control of public schools, and many other essential functions still are carried on by the agen­cies of local community: the township, the village, the city, the county, the voluntary association. Citizens' cooperation in voluntary community throughout the United States has been noted and commended in the books of Alexis de Tocqueville, Lord Bryce, Julian Marias, and other distinguished visitors to the United States, over the past two centuries:
  • America's citizens, most of them, have believed in a moral order ordained by divine wisdom; and so they have assumed moral responsibilities, including personal responsibility for constitutional government. The more thoughtful citizens have seen society as primarily moral in origin: a community of souls. Behind the outward forms of American political structure lie the old convictions that citizens have duties toward a Creator and toward other members of the society, and that a just government must recognize moral law.
  • In family, church, and school, until the middle of the twentieth century, the rising generation of Americans were taught that they must be personally responsible for their own welfare, for the care of their aging family members, for the security and prosperity of their community, for their patrimony of order and justice and freedom, A sense of responsibility is developed by severe lessons, by private risk and accountability, by a humane education, by religious understanding, by knowledge of the past. Once upon a time, this sense of responsibility was diffused throughout the American nation. If it drains away, the consequences will be dreary.

A republic whose citizens - whose leaders, indeed - are concerned chiefly with "looking out for Number One," and ig­noring their responsibilities of citizenship, soon cannot "insure domestic tranquillity, provide for the common defense, promote the general welfare" - or carry on the other major duties of the state. When the crisis comes, the people may turn in desperation to the hero-administrator, the misty figure somewhere at the summit. But in the end, that hero-­administrator will not save the republic, although he may govern for a time by force. A democratic republic cannot long endure unless a great many of its citizens stand ready and will­ing to brighten the corner where they are, and to sacrifice much for the nation, if need be.

Has The Consciousness of Responsibility Withered in America?

For the past five or six decades, several perceptive observers have remarked, an increasing proportion of the American population has ceased to feel responsible for the common defense, for productive work, for choosing able men and women to represent them in politics, for accepting personal responsibility for the needs of the community, or even for their own livelihood. Unless this deterioration is arrested, the responsible citizens will be too few to support and protect the irresponsible. By 1978 there were more people receiving regular government checks than there were workers in the private sector. What follows, if we are to judge by the history of fallen civilizations, is described by Albert Jay Nock in his book Memoirs of a Superfluous Man (1943):
"... closer centralization; a steadily growing bureaucracy; State power and faith in State power increasing; social power and faith in social power diminishing; the State absorbing a continually larger proportion of the national income; production languishing; the State in consequence taking over one 'essential industry' after another, managing them with ever-increasing corruption, inefficiency, and prodigality, and finally resorting to a system of forced labor. Then at some point in this process a collision of State interests, at least as general and as violent as that which occurred in 1914, will result in an industrial and financial dislocation too severe for the asthenic [weak] social structure to bear; and from this the State will be left to 'the rusty death of machinery' and the casual anonymous forces of dissolution."
Modern civilization offers a great variety of diversions, amusements, and enticements - some of them baneful. But modern civilization does not offer many inducements to the performance of duties, except perhaps monetary payment, and certainly it does not teach people that the real reward for responsible citizenship is the preservation of a free society. It is not money that can induce citizens to labor and sacrifice for the common good. They must be moved by patriotism and their attachment to the Constitution. And patriotism alone, ignorant boasting about ones native land, would not suffice to preserve the Republic. Thus it is that on the occasion of the Bicentennial celebrating of the Constitution, a mighty effort ought to be made to restore the American public's awareness of the principles of their government, of their responsibilities toward their country, their neighbors, their children, their parents, and themselves to be sure that their patriotism is based on this solid foundation. No one knows how late the hour is; but it is later than most people think. Love of the Republic shelters all our other loves; and that love is worth some sacrifice.

Responsibilities Are Readily Forgotten

Nearly all of us are quick to claim benefits, but not everybody is eager to fulfill obligations. We have become a nation obsessed with rights, forgetful of responsibilities. In an age of seeming affluence, a great many people find it easy to forget that all good things must be paid for by somebody or other - paid for through hard work, through painful abstinence, sometimes through bitter sacrifice. Below we set down some of the causes for the decline of a sense of responsibility among some American citizens.
  • The growth of an American welfare state, over the past half-century, has produced in the minds of a good many men and women the illusion that somehow somebody in Washington can provide for all needs: so why make much effort to fulfill what used to be considered personal responsibilities? As Alexis de Tocqueville remarked, a century and a half ago:

    "Democracy in the United States will endure until those in power learn that they can perpetuate themselves through taxation."

In other words, the temptation of public men in Washington is always to offer to have the federal government assume fresh responsibilities - with consequent decay of local and private vigor (it might be argued that, at least in part, a failure in the proper exercise of citizens' responsibility permitted the development of the welfare state syndrome - that the government owes them a living. In any event, once it got under way and the welfare state grew, the sense of citizens' responsibility and rugged individualism deteriorated).

  • The increase of the scale of society and the size of government has bewildered many Americans, inclining them to think that the individual can accomplish little or nothing in a responsible way, engulfed as he seems to be by the overwhelmingness of it all. It was easier to see ones personal responsibilities in a Massachusetts township or next door to a Virginia courthouse, in 1787, than it is to perceive what one's duties to country and community may be in the New York or Los Angeles of 1987. When one contemplates the enormous size of the federal government, then the exercise of individual citizen responsibility seems almost hopeless.
  • Until the 1930s, and in many schools later than that, young people learned their responsibilities through the lively study of history, government, and especially imaginative literature that taught them about human dignity and human duties. But in recent decades, especially during the 1960s and 1970s, the disciplines of history and government have been supplanted by a vague social stew," and the study of great literature and philosophical ideas has given way to anthologies of relevant" - and often depressing - third-rate recent writing. So the function of the schools as places where responsibility would be taught - an expressed hope of several of the Framers of the Constitution, John Dickinson among them - has been ignored.
  • Of all social institutions, formerly the family was most active and successful in teaching young people their responsibilities. But since the Second World War particularly, the American family has been weakened by economic changes, both parents being gainfully employed (often to pay for increases of taxation, in large part), the triumph of the television set over family conversations, the influence of periodicals read by young people, and a considerable range of challenges to parental authority - many times encouraged by judicial decisions and actions of the education establishment. At the same time, the influence of school teachers and of the clergy in perpetuating this strong sense of responsibility has diminished. So, in some degree, the restoration of a sense of responsibility depends upon the family's recovery of authority.
  • The fundamental impulse to accept responsibilities and perform duties, in every society, has been religious in origin. Individuals obey moral laws and do their duty because of awareness of duties toward God. Religion teaches that there exist natural laws; and that if individuals try to ignore those natural laws, they find themselves in peril, individually and as a society. People who deny the reality of the Divine tend to shrug off their responsibilities to other men and women. Thus, weakness in religious awareness commonly leads to the decay of personal responsibility in many walks of life.

These are only some of the reasons why a 'permissive" society speaks often of rights and seldom of responsibilities. A time comes, in the course of events, when abruptly there is a most urgent need for men and women ready to fulfill high and exacting and dangerous responsibilities. And if there are no such citizens, then liberty can be lost. It must be remembered that the great strength of the Signers of the Declaration and the Framers of the Constitution was that they knew their classical history, and how the ancient Greek cities had lost their liberties, and how the Roman system had sunk to its ruin under the weight of proletariat and military state.

Prospects For The Renewal Of Responsibility

What may be done by way of remedy? Although America's social difficulties are formidable, probably they are less daunting than those of any other great nation today. The economic resources of the United States remain impressive; and the country's intellectual resources are large. This essay cannot offer, in its small compass, a detailed program for the popular recovery of devotion to duty. Here we can only suggest healing approaches:
  • Like moral virtue, responsibility is first acquired in fami­ly and home. Nobody does more to injure a sense of responsibility than a parent who abandons children to the television set and the peer group, "liberating" them from household chores and study at home. Assigning and enforcing duties within home and family, though it may seem stern at first, is kindness to everybody in the long run.
  • In the family, as well as in the school, the imagination and the intellect can be introduced to the literature of responsibility - for such does exist, and young people are much taken with this literature if they have not already been absorbed into a juvenile "counter-culture." It was not many years ago that boys read, for instance, Theodore Roosevelt's and Henry Cabot Lodge's Hero Tales from American History, with its stirring descriptions of George Washington; of George Rogers Clark conquering the Northwest; of the battles of Trenton, Bennington, King's Mountain, and Stony Point - to confine ourselves to Revolutionary fighting - of Gouverneur Morris, the most brilliant delegate to the Constitutional Convention, with his one leg and his crippled arm, refusing to flee from the Jacobins in Paris. In such true tales one learns what responsibility requires. And it was not many years ago that girls were reading about the heroines of ancient times and modern - about Hypatia, Joan of Arc, Abigail Adams. We learn our duties from learning about men and women who did theirs. One recalls James Wilson's words, quoted at the beginning of this essay: "He, who steadily pursues the road of patriotism, has the most in­viting prospect of being able, at some times, to perform eminent ones."
  • In schools, the pupils need to be rescued from the sham subjects of "social studies" and "civics," ordinarily the most boring and empty disciplines in school curriculum, and introduced instead to real history and to the Con­stitution and American political institutions. From studying genuine historical figures and genuine politics and literature of the past, young people can come to apprehend what a citizen can do for his country.
  • Perhaps the best way to renew responsibility in American society is to assume responsibilities one's self. It may be difficult to find the time, and painful to fight one's way into politics at any level; nevertheless, some honest men and women must do so if the Republic is to endure another two centuries - or perhaps to the end of the twentieth century. From running for Congress to cam­paigning for the office of drain commissioner; from publishing a newspaper to writing a letter to the editor - ­there is no end to the responsibilities that may be under­taken, to the general benefit. The apparatus for doing one's political duty still exists, thanks to our Constitution.
  • To fulfill one's moral responsibilities through the agen­cies of a church, neighborhood, and personal charity may not be exciting; yet the example of duty does win converts, and one lays up treasure in a place unaffected by manipulated currency. To give aid and comfort to fugitives from Communist lands, say, is such an act as the Signers and the Framers would have approved heartily; and it teaches moral responsibility to one's children.
  • Ultimately, the recovery of a sense of responsibility is bound up with the recovery of the old concept and vir­tue of piety - gratitude toward God for his gift of life, gratitude toward one's ancestors, concern for one's children and descendants. Such a sense of responsibility is in keeping with the philosophy upon which the na­tion was built - Creator-endowed rights and responsibilities.

In your own circumstances, you may encounter oppor­tunities for the renewal of responsibility more promising where you live than any suggested here. In any society, it always has been a minority who have upheld order and justice and freedom. If only one out of every ten citizens of the United States of America should vigorously fulfill his responsibilities to our civil social order - why, we would not need to fear for the future of this nation.

Consider

  1. In all previous cultures, children ordinarily accepted responsibility for the well-being of their parents in old age; and in various societies, the children were so held accountable in law. Why has this form of responsibility decayed in the twentieth century? Can you think of political and social causes for the care of elderly parents being turned over to public agencies?
  2. Can you name seven or eight voluntary associations or organizations, not subsidized or directed by government, that perform important services in your community or in America generally? Explore the benefits from this kind of involvement as opposed to "letting the government do it."
  3. Responsible citizenship sometimes brings risks - all the way from unpopularity in some local dispute to pushing forward under enemy fire in military action. How may schools help to teach the rising generation the high importance of performing duties that may be dangerous?
  4. Are you and I personally responsible for our decisions and actions, or are we simply creatures of our environment, "conditioned" to respond in one way or another to events and challenges? Marshal the arguments on either side of this question, and then consider the probable social consequences of believing in freedom of the will, or believing that society, rather than the individual person, is responsible for citizen's actions.
  5. What are you doing to help preserve the great principles on which this nation and your personal freedoms are based?

Our Ageless Constitution, W. David Stedman & La Vaughn G. Lewis, Editors (Asheboro, NC, W. David Stedman Associates, 1987) Part VII:  ISBN 0-937047-01-5

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