As we Americans prepare to celebrate our Bicentennial Thanksgiving holiday, the abundant blessings and priceless privileges we all enjoy should be especially appreciated. Yet with privileges come responsibilities. Last summer, The Plain Truth sponsored a Bicentennial essay contest for the teen-age members of Youth Opportunities United, a nationwide youth group. The teen-agers were asked to write 500 words or less on the subject "My Responsibility as an American." Many well-written essays were submitted, but the judges eventually selected winners from each of two age brackets: 12-15 and 16-19. With our Bicentennial Thanksgiving holiday approaching, The Plain Truth staff has decided to reprint the winning essays, which we hope will be a source of inspiration to every American.
My Responsibility as an American by Margi John, Age 17 Petaluma, California
I think I am pretty lucky to be an American. This is one of the best places on earth . Maybe I am a bit biased, but I would not trade the freedoms and the way of life I have here for what may or may not exist in another nation. The topic of my responsibility as an American is therefore an important one. For the rights I hold so highly are not given without strings attached. Rights and responsibilities go hand in hand, for if rights are abused they either are taken away or cease to exist. Take a basic right like freedom of speech as an example. If I never used this right, never spoke out when something needed to be said, and no one else did either, the right to speak one's mind would easily be taken away. There are many other examples. In most cases, the way to preserve a right is to use it. In the case of my right to participate in the governing of my country, if I do not take an active interest in it, do I have cause to complain? With my right to "life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness" comes the obligation not to harm anyone else in the process. That may not seem like much at first, but when I look closely at that responsibility it becomes like Esher's "Metamorpose." The initial, obvious responsibility is related to the next. This ties into the next, which blends into another and another until the full circle is completed. To keep my rights is to use them, and use them well. It is not sitting in a dark corner of apathy. Nor is it saying. "I don't care what happens. I don't feel like getting involved." It is caring about people, because people are the reason that the rights exist in the first place. Perhaps this does not sound very red, white, and blue, striped and starred patriotic, but this is my country, and I love it, and I would never trade it for any other. I do not think that I will ever run for president. I doubt very much if I will ever make a discovery that will add to the knowledge of mankind; but I do intend to work for a better future by trying to live up to my responsibility as an American, and as a human being.
My Responsibility as an American by Bekah Seward, Age 15 Temple, Oklahoma
My Responsibility as an American" is a large topic, but my responsibility is even larger. Responsibility is often ignored because people don't know what their responsibility is. Part of my responsibility is as a leader to my community, to my country, and to my world. I am to be concerned with the happenings in my local world and in the outside world. To be a leader, I need education, experience, common sense, and courage. Courage to do something for others when they are against me or when the chances for winning are very slim. I also need diplomacy for talking to people. My responsibility is in the home. I am to help keep my family together. I am to listen to my parents' point of view and then tell them mine. I shall comply with their wishes unless they are absolutely wrong. I will help with the housework to prevent one person being overworked. My responsibility is to respect my parents and help preserve my family's home life. Another part of my responsibility is in the community. I am to be someone people can look to for guidance. A person that is able to head committees or a person that is able to follow others. I need to be a person that will help when help is needed. I will get facts before I act. My responsibility in school is to be respectful of my teachers. I am not to complain and cause trouble for others. I need to help bring standards, especially moral standards, up. Part of my responsibility is as a visitor to nations. When abroad I should always put the "right foot" forward. The "right foot" is being mindful of the beliefs and customs of others. I am not to insult their intelligence. I say this because many Americans seem to think they are more intelligent than people of other countries. This isn't true. These people know many things you and I don't know. My responsibility to America is to build her. I am to help education by working as hard as I can at school. I'm to help stop robbery by putting things under lock and key and out of sight to stop tempting criminals to take it. I am to stop drug use and youth crimes by showing them that life has better things to offer. My responsibility is to be proud of America and show that I am proud. To sum it up is to say that my responsibility as an American is to be an example in all aspects of life, whether as a leader or as a follower. I am to help keep my family together, to help in the community, to be mindful of others, whether abroad or not, and I am to help build America by keeping laws and helping stop crimes. This isn't half of my responsibility I have as an American. Thinking about this has shown me how much I have neglected my responsibility. Have you neglected yours?