The Privilege and Responsibility of American Citizenship
I have never lived in any other country but America. But, my parents did, and they would tell me how much better life is in America than in the China they left in 1947.
They came with nothing to lose and with everything to gain.
In America people like my parents could begin life anew with little or nothing; and, with patience, and hard work, they could achieve far beyond anything they could have hoped to achieve had they stayed in their native land.
Most of what my parents ever hoped for was the opportunity to support their family with the necessities of life in safety, absent of the squalor, disease, and misery they knew when they lived under a weak political system.
My parents knew without fully understanding the principal reason why America offers people that opportunity.
As a student of history, I came to understand just what that reason is: America is unique from all other nations in the history of the world. America secures to the individual the greatest liberty the world has ever known in the history of mankind.
At last, in America, liberty found a home. America had nothing to offer liberty but the unwelcome of a wilderness. But liberty within the human breast is undaunted by hard work and hardships; not even the risk of death discourages liberty from its zeal to live and thrive.
America teaches and demonstrates to the world what individual liberty can do, of the good it can produce despite being deposited upon a God-forsaken wilderness with not much but obstacles and adversities.
America, hence, is a testimony to the blessings of individual liberty, liberty’s primary blessing being the blessing of self-government. Each individual is at liberty to govern his own life. In collective society the people are each his own governor. The people themselves make or amend the laws of their own society according to the capacity they each have to resolve the issues of his private life. Thus, the laws of America reflect the people’s capacity, or incapacity, for self-government.
Since the signing of the Mayflower Compact in 1620, civil government in America has been in the hands of liberty-loving people. Their intent is to secure to themselves and to their posterity the greatest individual liberty possible under law. The people, themselves, constitute the fountain of all civil powers. Acting first as their own governors, the people delegate to their rulers only limited civil powers. Historically in America government is kept close to home. The people made it their business to know their leaders and the leaders knew it was their business to be the protector and servants of the people’s will.
Historically, the American people understood what an encroaching, grasping power civil government is; and, if not vigilantly watched and reined in, civil government will presume and claim to itself more power than is its right to own. The people were careful about deciding who were to become their decision makers in matters of public policy.
The Preamble of the Constitution of the United States of America opens with, “WE THE PEOPLE,” referring to each and every citizen of America. Among the reasons the citizens of America ordained and established the Constitution for themselves was to preserve the blessings of liberty to themselves and to their posterity. The founders who framed the Constitution left it to the citizens of each generation to determine what type of republic it should have and to what degree each individual should have religious, economic and civil liberty.
There are manifold blessings in being able to live and do business in America. It is, however, up to the citizenry of America to secure these benefits and insure that they are maintained.
There is a duty attached to citizenship in America. The responsibility for the quality of individual liberty existing in America originates in the citizens because the controls of civil power in America are in the hands of its citizenry.
We are mistaken if we as citizens forget how unique America really is. If we forget that she operates at her fullest potential when the people are free to go about their business, pursuing their private, yet unselfish, interests for the good of themselves, of their fellow citizens, and of their nation. It is in our vital interest and in the interest of our country not to consume nor presume upon the gifts and inheritances bequeathed to us by the generations past. To enjoy our privileges without improving and preserving them, to squander our portion, diminish and deplete what we do own, thus leave little or no liberty for posterity upon which to build their lives and, thus, to enjoy, is to be selfish and to be unworthy of liberty.
Remember, in America, the maintaining of rights and liberties is not in the hands of the civil authorities, but rather the existence of our rights and liberties rests in the hands of the electors or the citizens. If our natural rights and liberties are losing ground rather than making gains in America, it will not be because these rights and liberties are being taken away from us, but becausefrom our lack of due diligencewe the people have relinquished them.
Whether or not as citizens we register and then actually go to the polls is a moot point. In one way or another, whether tacitly or explicitly, we the citizens are expressing our wills on election day. Silence and/or inaction in local and national elections constitute consent to whatever the outcome is. If we are indifferent towards the conduct of local and national governments, if we fail to act responsibly as electors, then we have no permission to be surprised nor indignant whenever our interests are harmed by a series of unchecked and unrestrained usurpations by our own delegates in civil power and whenever these delegatesthrough misjudgment and/or misconductgo against the interests of our nation.
We do not deem it unlikely for us to lose what is dearest to us in America, that being the liberties the individual enjoys today in this country. Individual libertymay by degreesbe lost, by one cycle of elections after another, because the American citizens lack the responsibility in taking care that decision makers and policies are attending only to our highest good and, hence, attending to the highest good for our country.
Patriotism, ones love of his country, comes from an understanding of what is good in his country. Certainly, no nation is perfect, but every nation has in it both the good and the bad, both the right and the wrong. What is good in America and what is right in America are the things we love about our country. America is founded upon belief in non-sectarian, non-partisan, self-evident truths: first, the individual has God-given, absolute and inalienable just claims to his own life, natural liberty and the enjoyment of the fruits of his own labor; and, secondly, the purpose of civil government is not more than to secure and protect these claims. The quality of the security and protection of our American lives, liberty and property are, however, deposited in the care of the citizenry.
Some of you are, as I am, born to parents or ancestors who came risking all to escape from a nation in which the individual had no other cause than of aggrandizing an all powerful State. Must I live so selfishly and thanklessly as to care less whether or not America becomes like such a nation, or shall I become so grateful for the personal blessing of being a natural-born American citizen as to encourage the growth and protection of individual liberty and self-government not only for America’s sake, but for the sake of all other men and nations?