The Responsibilities of Citizenship

The privileges and freedoms inherent in self-government are balanced by the duties and responsibilities citizenship. Citizens must help finance government according to their ability and must obey the laws and regulations which they, through the exercise of their franchise, have helped frame.

Foremost among the responsibilities of citizenship is the wise use of the power of the ballot. An informed electorate is the surest guarantee of the survival of democracy. Whether the issue is paving a street in the town in which they live or approving a major change in U.S. foreign policy, American voters have the duty to cast their votes on the basis of all the information available.

A second major responsibility is public service. Millions of American men and women have entered the armed forces to defend their country in times of national emergency. Millions more have served in peacetime to maintain the country's military strength. Americans, young and old alike, have joined the Peace Corps and other volunteer organizations for social service at home and abroad. Nor is volunteer service confined to government-sponsored activities. From parent-teacher associations and Little League baseball groups at the local level, to consumer lobbies and foreign policy associations at the national and international levels, Americans contribute freely of their time and talents in support of causes in which they believe.

A relatively small number of persons choose politics as a lifetime career. But there are literally millions of citizens who have entered government service at all levels. Some are professionals in the field of public administration, with years of study at the university and post-graduate level behind them. Others have made their mark first in private enterprise and later in government service.

The judicial system relies on the service of citizens as members of juries in federal, state and local courts. Every American of legal age is subject to jury duty, unless he or she can show that such service would constitute a revere personal hardship. Grand juries have enormous powers to investigate wrong-doing by public officials as well as private citizens. Trial juries sit in judgment of their fellow citizens charged with violations of the law.