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Jack Jouett Chapter

National Society Daughters of the American Revolution

Charlottesville, Virginia

Est. February 13, 1922

Jack Jouett Chapter Good Citizen Essay Contest Winner

Reprinted in its entirety with permission from its author
Hayley Owen
Charlottesville High School

Our American Heritage and Our Responsibility for Preserving It

Question: How does one’s personal heritage affect one’s duties to our nation?

Picture of Essay Winner

Though the United States of America has more than two centuries of history, this time past is hard to fathom. It is equally hard to imagine that there are people who can trace their family tree back to the roots of our country. Though this deep rooted connection with the beginning of our nation is impressive and certainly helps these decedents feel closer to the country they are citizens in, their responsibility to their nation is no greater than that of people who are newly recognized members of the United States. This is not to say that the responsibility for both parties is negligible, as it is quite the opposite. As a citizen, regardless of personal heritage, one’s responsibility to one’s nation encompasses being involved from a political stand point, creating an environment that reflects our nations values of freedom and equality, and fulfilling the people’s side of America’s social contract.

There are many different levels of involvement within the political spectrum of the United States. There are the less challenging forms of involvement like voting for the candidate that most reflects one’s views, while there are more formidable ways to play a part of the government’s decisions like lobbying the people in power who can make direct change. Perhaps the most difficult and time consuming form of involvement is running for office so that one’s beliefs have the most potential to make an impact. In whatever level of involvement that one pursues, the driving force should be the responsibility as a citizen. It should not be because one’s ancestor believed in the same ideals that one voted for today.

A citizen also has the responsibility to uphold the same values that the founding fathers imbued in our constitution. This responsibility is the same even if one is directly descended from James Madison. Though it can be argued that because of this lineage the descendant must uphold these values in their everyday life in a greater way than that of others who immigrated to our country from a different nation, this is not true in America where our forefathers specifically designed the government with the prevention of hierarchy in mind. Citizenship is America’s form of lineage and everyone has the responsibility to uphold the values that unite us.

America’s system of government stems very closely from John Locke’s social contract where the people in a society enter into a theoretical contract with each other agreeing to not violate one another’s rights. The social contract also establishes a relationship between the people and the government where in return for the government’s protection the people must respect the rules created. This contract applies to everyone regardless of ancestry. Those who have been a part of our nation for generations follow the same rules as those who lack the same personal heritage. As a citizen one’s duty to one’s government in return for protection is the same for everyone.

America is often characterized as a nation of immigrants. Our country is also known as a nation of intensely patriotic people. With its diversity of ancestry it is simple to understand that Americans take their citizenship more seriously than their lineage. Regardless of heritage, all citizens have the same responsibilities to participate politically, uphold the founding values, and respect the social contract.