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Friday, January 22, 2010

Maintaining American Citizenship

By the good fortune of the geography of our birth or our industry, we are United States citizens. After out initial introduction to the Constitution, everyone has fairly similar concepts of the freedoms this privilege affords us; however, people have vastly different ideas of the obligations required to maintain the status of being a good citizen. Some view their birthright or naturalization as total individual freedom of choice and responsibility while others work their entire lives to repay this fateful, bountiful attainment.

Thousands of people who are trying to get into the United States, and struggling for the right to stay, would cherish the opportunities many American citizens squander. Truly, this demand proves that U.S. citizenship is the most sought after status on the planet. When people who have worked and extensively traveled abroad discuss their living preferences, they state that being a citizen of the United States is most ideal situation.

The United States is populated by people of many races and many religions, all of whom have had ancestors who have spoken many different languages of the world. Thus, a person may come to the United States from anywhere and become an American in the eyes of the law after acquiring citizenship.

The Oath of American Citizenship contains these carefully stated words:

"I hereby declare, on oath, that I absolutely and entirely renounce and abjure all allegiances and fidelity to any foreign prince, potentate, state, or sovereign, to whom I or which I have heretofore been a subject or citizen; that I will support and defend the Constitution and laws of the United States of America against all enemies, foreign and domestic...."

Neither linguistics, nor religious faith, nor racial background makes people citizens. Someone is an American who has been born in the United States or who has immigrated to the United States and become a citizen through a naturalization process. Still, to maintain good standing as a citizen, the person must fulfill certain obligations of living in the land.

What do we all need to do to prove we do not take this gift for granted? Many say that Americans must respect and practice the virtues of humankind: love, respect, graciousness, courage, kindness, loyalty and responsibility. Many expressions of our obligations, poetic and direct, exist as models for contemplation and practice. Instead of writing a directive of duty, I write this post as a series of thoughtful quotes for finding some appropriate sentiments to motivate a greater appreciation and application of good citizenship.

Quotes From the Common People Of the Land

“The qualities needed to be a good American are synonymous with those needed to be a good neighbor, good friend, good mate, good parent, good grandparent, or any other person. A good American must believe in themselves, their country, its goals and aspirations and defend freedom anywhere in the world.”

—Lester C. Van Bibber III of Lincoln, Ill.

“A good citizen is the person who always gives more of himself or herself than is received.”
—Jean Holmes of Tylertown, Miss.

“A good American is a person who is ready, willing and able to be and do all he or she can to promote, protect, defend and support the basic freedoms of all Americans regardless of their color or creed.”
—Peggy L. Dildine of Ardmore, Tenn.

“A good American is someone who thinks more highly of others than he does himself, who shows kindness to all people, who is humbled by the freedoms he enjoys, and who stoops to pick up a piece of litter instead of passing it by.”
—Diane M. Pankonin of Oregon City, Ore.

“The best citizen puts ethics before law, law before gain, nation before self.”
—David A. Todd of Bella Vista, Ark.

Quotes From Famous Americans

"Individuality is the aim of political liberty. By leaving the citizen as much freedom of action and of being as comports with order and the rights of others, the institutions render him truly a freeman. He is left to pursue his means of happiness in his own manner."
--James F. Cooper

"The first requisite of a good citizen in this republic of ours is that he shall be able and willing to pull his own weight."
--Theodore Roosevelt

"Every citizen should be a soldier. This was the case with the Greeks and Romans, and must be that of every free state."
--Thomas Jefferson

"Every good citizen makes his country's honor his own, and cherishes it not only as precious but as sacred. He is willing to risk his life in its defense and its conscious that he gains protection while he gives it."
--Andrew Jackson 

"I feel that I am a citizen of the American dream and that the revolutionary struggle of which I am a part is a struggle against the American nightmare."
--Eldridge Cleaver

"You need only reflect that one of the best ways to get yourself a reputation as a dangerous citizen these days is to go about repeating the very phrases which our founding fathers used in the struggle for independence."
--Charles A. Beard

"Democracy is the most demanding of all forms of government in terms of the energy, imagination, and public spirit required of the individual."
--George C. Marshall

"The World is my country, all mankind are my brethren, and to do good is my religion."
--Thomas Paine

In 1947, in celebration of the 160th anniversary of the Declaration of Independence, a Freedom Train dubbed the "Spirit of '76" began a journey through 322 communities of the United States, shunning those that insisted on segregation.  When it stopped in New England, the Freedom Pledge was introduced to rededicate Americans to the principles of freedom:

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