As a citizen, what is our job? What is our goal? What do we strive for in ourselves and others as it regards the place we live? Do we focus on what we get out of or can take away from that place, or do we focus on what we can add to that place? Does it even matter? This is, as with so many others written about here, a huge topic. With that in mind let us focus on just on the general question of what is a citizen’s role in the success or failure of their nation.
In any scenario in life, if you have to pick from a group, you want that group to be of the highest quality possible, because then no matter what you pick, it will be good, or at least better. For example, if you had a bushel of apples and you had to pick one, it would be best if the bushel was mostly full of ripe firm apples as opposed to being mostly full of mushy rotten ones. As the old saying goes, a chain is only as strong as the weakest link. Along this same line of thinking, all of the leaders of a nation come from the population of that country. Therefore the better the population, the more integrity and character and honesty that population has, the better the leaders of that nation will be. The reverse is also true, the more people of low character, integrity, more prone to lying, cheating, and stealing there are, the more likely their leaders are to be of the same quality.
President Theodore Roosevelt summed it up nicely. “In the long run, success or failure will be conditioned upon the way in which the average man, the average women, does his or her duty, first in the ordinary, every-day affairs of life, and next in those great occasional cries which call for heroic virtues. The average citizen must be a good citizen if our republics are to succeed. The stream will not permanently rise higher than the main source; and the main source of national power and national greatness is found in the average citizenship of the nation.”
Thus, the role of the citizen is to make themselves the most honest, of the highest character and integrity, they can. This will in turn help to pull many up with them, just as people of low character, honesty and integrity tend to draw people down with them. It is important to note that academic or athletic achievement in and of themselves do not make the list. For knowledge or ability without the wisdom or character to use it well and for good purpose are catastrophic. Then you end up with individuals (a laundry list of whom dot the pages of history) who have great talent, but who use it to tear down and destroy a society in place of building it up and making it more secure.
This role must be practiced by each new generation of citizens too. If any generation assumes security, achievement, or quality is permanent and chooses to sit on their laurels, or even the laurels of those who have come before them, decline will come, that prosperity and abundance will sprout wings and fly away. Without the citizen the nation cannot exist. Without a moral and righteous citizen a nation will dissolve from within. This applies to nation, state, county, large and small town as well. Without morality and integrity even the most isolated and smallest of communities will become deceptive and destructive. And lest you think you cannot make a difference, a “few good men” can monumentally shift the trajectory of a town, a state, a nation, or even the world. The role of the citizen should be to become one of those few, good men. – JT Cope IV