Are we ready to be good citizens?

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By The Staff

Did you watch the hundreds of thousands of people weeping with heartfelt tears while President Barack Hussein Obama was delivering his inaugural address to the nation? Whether a supporter or not, everybody could feel what that weeping meant.

I hope the meaning of the weeping agrees with Obama’s inaugural address, which seeks a “new age” with values of the past and calls for an “era of responsibility.” The nation is in a deep economic slump; people are yelling, screaming, and slamming at one another, and especially at the government.

I think that the nation’s financial woes are mainly our citizens’ fault. We didn’t do our civic duties first. In this essay, I’d like to share some thoughts on how we can be good citizens.

First, have we ever been seriously concerned about our community and helped it without any condition? Let’s go back to the first Thanksgiving in 1621, when Native Americans helped American colonists to survive in this country, and how American colonists gave thanks to them.

In his inaugural speech, President Obama asked for “the faith and determination of the American people to do the kindness and selflessness for the misfortunate when the levees break.”

It’s time to look around our community with an open heart. Let’s start with a next door neighbor. When all citizens focus on ethics and concern about their communities for the common good, sound communities will be built and a sound nation will result.

According to John Donne, “No man is an Island.” People can not live alone; we all are connected in every aspect of our lives. In this light, it is essential that all citizens attend community meetings and participate in community matters.

Someone once said, “The best citizen puts ethics before law, law before gain, nation before self.”

Second, have we ever written a letter to our political representatives? Simply being law abiding and peaceful citizens may no longer define being good citizens in the U.S.

When the Declaration of Independence was signed by representatives of all 13 colonies on July 4, 1776, people gained rights to tell the government what to do, and the government must do what the people say. It is our duty to express our opinions through our political representatives, who should consider them for the common good.

For example, as Department of Education officials consider how best to spend billions from the economic stimulus plan, they would be wise to pay attention to which programs actually help children achieve. Some suggested programs: the Perry Preschool, set up in Ypsilanti, Mich. in the early 1960s, is a good example. Another is the Knowledge Is Power Program (KIPP), founded in Huston, Tex. in 1994, which has seen remarkable success with poor minority children in middle schools.

As good citizens, we must suggest our opinions strongly through letters, e-mails, and petitions to our political representatives or civic organizations and must keep tracking how it works out. It is very important for us to participate on political matters and do our duties.

Finally, have we ever been proud of ourselves before the Stars and Stripes while listening to or singing the Star Spangled Banner? When thinking of how this country was founded we cannot be but humble. In this regard, it is time for us once again to follow the virtues of our forefathers to get this nation straight.

We must be truthful, straight and honest and respect our freedoms and those of others. We must be trustworthy, always do our best, pay taxes, and support our great country. Most of all, we must take responsibility for our actions and reflect on how our actions affect the welfare of others. We must be a positive role model for citizenship for our next generations.

Becoming a good citizen means being fully aware of the issues and problems facing our communities and being able to do something about them. As President Obama said, “What is required of us now is a new era of responsibility – a recognition on the part of every American that we have duties to ourselves, our nation, and the world. Duties that we do not grudgingly accept but rather seize gladly. This is the price and the promise of citizenship.”

The question is, Are we ready to be good citizens?

This essay was written by Malsoon MacFarland, a new citizen and a student in an English Student of Other Languages class at the Marion County Literacy Council.

If you would like to become involved in improving literacy in Marion County, call the Marion County Literacy Council at 690-7323, or e-mail karen@marionliteracy.org.