An American Bill of Responsibilities

by Judith H. Rose

Fifteen years after the Founding Fathers drafted the Constitution of the United States, the amendments known as the Bill of Rights were ratified. These inspired men believed in a balance between citizen responsibilities and citizen rights. They knew that an emphasis only on rights would inevitably lead to self-interest and anarchy. They also knew that without this balance our nation could not endure. It is time to restore that balance. If they could counsel us today, the Founding Fathers might suggest the following Bill of Responsibilities:

  1. You have the responsibility to be a loyal citizen of the United States of America and to expect the same of every other citizen or immigrant to this great land. You have the responsibility to honor the flag and everything she stands for, and to pledge your allegiance to your country.

  2. Accepting citizenship means that you are, first and foremost, an American, not a hyphenated American or an expatriate of another country who is here solely for economic advantage. While you do not need to agree with every law that is passed, you do have the obligation to obey the law and work through peaceful means to achieve change. Further, for as long as you are living in this great country that continues to guarantee more freedom to its citizens than any other, you have the obligation to be grateful for the blessing of living in such a land. In America you have the freedom to leave at any time, should you be dissatisfied. No permission is needed.

  3. You have the responsibility to speak up when the criminal or legislative actions of any persons threaten the welfare of your family or your nation. It is not someone else's responsibility to blow the whistle; it is yours. "They" should not do something about the problems. You are "they." It takes courage and time to stand up against evil and destructive forces, but if you do not do it, who will?

  4. You have the responsibility to consider the welfare of ALL the citizens of the United States of America, even if it requires some personal sacrifice. The nation cannot survive the promulgation of narrow self-interest, be it of the individual, the community, or the state. As long as you judge every law or solution to a problem solely by how it affects you or your surroundings, rather than the country as a whole, there will be no real answers, nor can America remain great.

  5. You have the responsibility to support yourself and your own immediate and extended family. Being self-sustaining, providing for your own family, and helping your neighbor to the extent possible are requisite for a healthy economy and society. No society can flourish when a sizable number of its citizens expect to do nothing while accepting a government dole. Reliance on government entities inevitably destroys individual self-respect and the economic well-being of both citizen and state. If you take care of yourself and family, and the community picks up the slack, this nation will have one-third more funds for worthwhile projects and both you and this nation, will become strong and resilient.

  6. You have the responsibility to make a difference in the lives of your family, your community, and your nation. As a good citizen you are here to make a contribution to this country. America has always been in the forefront in medical advances, scientific research, humanitarianism, and other areas. You have the responsibility to continue this tradition through hard work and good use of your time. You have the responsibility to bypass excuses of race, economic standing, and victimization of any kind because, no matter which excuse you choose, someone has successfully overcome it.

  7. You have the responsibility to be educated and informed. A public education is not enough. Finding truth is a challenging lifetime task that you must pursue diligently. You have the responsibilty to seek truth from many sources. You must question what you read in any publication or listen to in any media report and be willing to consider all sides of any question. You must realize that such a quest for truth will take a tremendous effort to seek it out. The truth is not revealed unless actively sought.

  8. You have the responsibility to use wisdom in selecting those who will lead you. You must learn to seek men of good character, not those with only charisma or a handsome face. You must become a connoisseur of character rather than a pawn of a salient slogan. You must remember that character is never outdated. A man or woman with no self-control should never be trusted with the welfare of our great country. You must never tolerate leaders who are untruthful, deceitful, or seek to exercise power rather than give service.

  9. You have the responsibility to value and defend human life. Quality of life considerations, age, or handicaps do not in any way lessen the value of life itself. Any life taken by mankind before its time cheapens the life of every other American. You also have the responsibility to educate those who would degrade human life by considering it, at best, equal to or even lower than animal life.

  10. You have the responsibility to honor your freedom of worship and to defend that right for every citizen in this country. We, your Founding Fathers valued religion highly and depended entirely upon God for the inspiration and help needed to form this union. We expect no less of you.

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