America has a long and noble tradition of immigration, welcoming millions from around the globe who have come in search of civil and religious liberty and economic prosperity. For many who have lived under despotic governments, the unparalleled liberty and equal protection of the law that America offers are blessings for which they have been willing to make great sacrifices. Those who want to work, live freely, and obey the laws, usually find a good life in America. They are better for coming here. And America is better for having them.
Since 1820, when official immigration records were first collected, approximately one hundred million people have immigrated to America. According to the 2000 census, no less than one-tenth of the American population today is foreign born. When most Americans trace their family tree only a few generations back, they find that their ancestors came from countries other than America. In this sense, immigrants are the most typical Americans. It is precisely this fact—that America is in large part a nation of immigrants and sons and daughters of immigrants—that makes citizenship critically important in America. For a nation of people with such diverse ethnic, cultural, and religious backgrounds, it is especially important to understand what unites them as citizens.
Uniting all American citizens is, first of all, the fact that they are equal citizens. From this common observation, one catches a glimpse of the radical and bold experiment that America is: America places its destiny in the hands of its citizens, including new citizens, and they are free to make of America what they will. What to do with America is a question every generation must wrestle with and decide for themselves. This does not mean that Americans are abandoned to make these fateful choices blindly or arbitrarily. America was founded on distinctive moral and political principles, which are articulated and explained at length in many of the documents that have come down to us from the Founding period. Two of those documents, the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution, express with incomparable authority the principles and practices of free government in America. All citizens should study them with care. By learning the principles of the American Founding, and the logic of free government that flows from them, American citizens today can prepare themselves to make important political choices, and to make them wisely.
For most immigrants arriving in America, the social and political life they find here is unlike anything they have experienced. After all, America is unique in many ways, most notably in its political principles and institutions. As Thomas Jefferson wrote, "Every species of government has its specific principles. Ours perhaps are more peculiar than those of any other in the universe." America combines the best examples of free society offered by the Western political tradition, with principles "derived from natural right and natural reason."
So what is it that new immigrants ought to know about being an American citizen? To take full advantage of the blessings of liberty in America, and to fulfill their civic obligations and contribute fully to the political and social life of the nation, citizens should understand the first things of their country, the basic principles and practices that have made America the free and great nation it is. We can begin to understand these conditions of freedom by asking, and answering, three questions:
I. What is the central idea from which the precepts of American government and American citizenship flow?
II. What are the foundation, purpose, and form of American government?
III. What are the civic virtues required of citizens living under American government?
I. THE AMERICAN IDEA
The first and most important thing to understand about America is that America was founded upon an idea. While most countries throughout history could trace their origins, and their claim to rule, to some ethnic or sectarian religious tradition, the American Founders proposed to form a new political society upon an abstract idea: that all men are born free and equal, and that the purpose of government is to protect the equal natural rights of citizens.
The American Founders held that any reasoning human being could comprehend the truth of human equality—at any time, in any place—because it is a principle springing from human nature. By nature, every human being possesses equal rights; every human being is born equally free. There is no social hierarchy among humans by nature—no natural principle of who rules and who gets ruled. As Jefferson once wrote, "the mass of mankind has not been born with saddles on their backs, nor a favored few booted and spurred, ready to ride them legitimately, by the grace of God." This is the simple meaning of the famous line from the Declaration of Independence, "We hold these truths to be self evident, that all men are created equalâ€¦."
The implications of this idea are radical. For the first time in human history, one need not belong to any particular class, tribe, or religion to be an equal citizen. Citizenship, in principle, is open to anyone who recognizes that the source of his own rights is at once the source of the rights of all others, and that the protection he desires for his own rights he must extend to his fellow citizens, regardless of rank or station.
In an 1858 speech, celebrating the 82nd anniversary of the Declaration of Independence, Abraham Lincoln—who drew all his political principles from the ideas of the Declaration—emphasized the universal meaning of the principle of human equality, with special reference to new Americans. Many Americans, he said, felt "historically connected" with the great accomplishments of the American Revolution because the revolutionaries of 1776 were literally their "fathers and grandfathers." But the universal principles of the Declaration apply equally to all citizens—including those who have immigrated to America after the Revolution and who are not related by blood to the Revolutionary Fathers—connecting them one to another in the cause of freedom. Here are Lincoln's words:
We have . . . among us perhaps half our people who are not descendants at all of [the American revolutionaries]â€¦If they look back through this history to trace their connection with those days by blood, they find they have none, they cannot carry themselves back into that glorious epoch and make themselves feel that they are part of us; but when they look through that old Declaration of Independence they find that those old men say that "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal," and then they feel that that moral sentiment taught in that day evidences their relation to those men, that it is the father of all moral principle in them, and that they have a right to claim it as though they were blood of the blood, and flesh of the flesh of the men who wrote that Declaration, and so they are. That is the electric cord in that Declaration that links the hearts of patriotic and liberty-loving men together, that will link those patriotic hearts as long as the love of freedom exists in the minds of men throughout the world.
The principle of equality is what makes the American people a people; that is, a nation where citizens are connected one to another not by common ancestry, but by allegiance to the principle that all men are created equal. By believing and defending that principle, each generation of Americans is united in the cause of freedom with all other generations, as though they are "blood of the blood, and flesh of the flesh of the men who wrote that Declaration." As one prominent scholar of American politics has noted,
Nothing has become more commonplace in America, and yet nothing is more extraordinary in itself, than to see Teuton and Slav, Greek and Turk, Protestant and Catholic, Palestinian Arab and Jew, who would in their old world habitat be busily engaged in killing each other, living as the best of friends in the framework of American lifeâ€¦.
In America, religious and ethnic differences are meant to be removed from the political process, and to have no bearing on the protection of law, because rights are understood to belong equally to every man and woman regardless of religious beliefs, skin color, or cultural heritage. The timeless and universal idea of human equality is the central idea from which the precepts of American government and citizenship flow. It was the ultimate cause and justification for American independence. Acting on the principle of human equality and equal natural rights, the American Founders formed a government, or a "social compact" as they sometimes called it, for the purpose of protecting those rights.
II. AMERICAN GOVERNMENT: FOUNDATION, PURPOSE, AND FORM
Foundation of Government
In the summer of 1787, delegates from the thirteen new American states (except Rhode Island) met in Philadelphia for a Constitutional Convention. These delegates included some of the brightest and most talented men of the day, such as Ben Franklin, James Madison, Alexander Hamilton, and George Washington, who was chosen by his fellow delegates to preside over the meetings. Confronted with many failures of America's first constitution, called the Articles of Confederation, these delegates designed a new Constitution, which in turn gave rise to a new form of government in America.
But if all men possess equal rights by nature, why does man need government at all? Again, the Founders looked to human nature for an answer. As James Madison wrote: "What is government itself but the greatest of all reflections on human nature? If men were angels, no government would be necessary." If men were angels—that is, if men were wholly good and wholly reasonable—there would be no need for government, because every man would naturally respect the rights of others without government or law. But men are not angels. In addition to his reason, man possesses selfish passions and appetites; sometimes men follow these passions and violate the rights of others. Thus there is a need for some way to restrain the baser and often destructive elements of human nature. The solution is government.
But the same human nature that indicates the need for government also indicates the necessary foundation for government to be legitimate: consent of the governed. Most governments in human history have operated without the consent of the governed. Pharaohs, Kings, and Emperors have claimed special dispensation from God that supposedly authorized them to rule over other men without their consent. In America, these traditions were rejected.
Taking their bearings from a common sense understanding of human nature, the American Founders recognized that human beings differ in many ways: some are tall, some short; some beautiful, some ugly; some smart, some ignorant; some virtuous, some vicious. But in their possession of the natural rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, all human beings are created equal. No man can legitimately or justly rule over another without the other's consent. As Jefferson wrote, "Because Sir Isaac Newton was superior to others in understanding, he was not therefore lord of the person or property of others." Tyrannical rule, or rule without consent, is "unnatural" in this sense--it violates the natural equality of human beings.
In the Preamble of the Massachusetts Constitution of 1780, the idea of government by consent is expressed in these terms: "The body-politic is formed by a voluntary association of individuals: It is a social compact, by which the whole people covenants with each citizen, and each citizen with the whole people, that all shall be governed by certain laws for the common good." Free government is government that is founded on a "social compact," where each citizen agrees with the whole, and the whole agrees with each citizen, to be governed by laws directed toward the common good of the people, which means laws that protect the equal rights of each citizen to promote the happiness of all.
Government by consent is foremost a moral principle. Just as no person who does not wish to be a slave should enslave another, so governments should not rule without the consent of the governed. This is what George Washington meant in his First Inaugural Address when he said that "the foundation of our national policy will be laid in the pure and immutable principles of private morality." The principles of private morality are immutable because they are derived from human nature, which never changes, and it is human nature that is at once the cause of government and the standard by which all governments are to be judged. The needs of human nature make government necessary. The capacities of human nature make government possible. And where there is good government, human nature will flourish.
Purpose of Government
We have seen why human beings need government, and we have seen the foundation on which free government must be established. What, then, are the purposes of government? The literature of the American Founding enumerates several purposes of government in different places.
The Declaration of Independence, proclaiming that all human beings possess by nature certain "unalienable rights," including the rights to "life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness," asserts, "that to secure these rights, governments are instituted among men." Later in the same document, we read that the end or goal of government is "to effect" the "safety and happiness" of the people. James Madison echoes this in Federalist 43, where he writes, "that the safety and happiness of society are the objects at which all political institutions aim."
The Preamble of the Constitution states the following goals of American government: "We the people of the United States, in order to form a more perfect union, establish justice, insure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general welfare, and secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America."
In Federalist 51, James Madison writes, "Justice is the end [or purpose] of government. It is the end of civil society. It ever has been, and ever will be pursued, until it be obtained, or until liberty be lost in the pursuit."
There is a logic to these different ends; they are aspects of one sovereign purpose. The first and most basic purpose of government is to secure the "safety" of the citizens. This means securing their rights to life and liberty. Government must protect citizens from foreign enemies as well as from fellow citizens who threaten their rights. The first instance requires strong national defense and a prudent foreign policy; the second requires effective criminal laws that justly punish those citizens who violate the rights of others.
Securing the safety of the people is a necessary condition to fulfill the other purposes of government. Only when the lives, liberties, and properties of citizens are secure against foreign and domestic dangers will the people enjoy the "domestic tranquility" that is needed in order to "establish justice," for example. And not only justice, but all the moral virtues were understood by the Founders to be essential ingredients of the "general welfare" and of the citizenry. As Jefferson once remarked, man is "inherently independent of all but moral law." The "moral law" is the source of the rights, duties, and happiness of man. The Founders understood the principles of free government within this framework of moral law. As the Virginia Declaration of Rights proclaims, the blessings of liberty depend on "a firm adherence to justice, moderation, temperance, frugality, and virtue."
In the Founders' view, a government that succeeds in securing a safe, free, tranquil, and moral society will have succeeded in establishing—as far as human design is capable—the conditions for effecting the ultimate purpose of government, the "happiness of society." But what form of government is most likely to achieve such a high purpose?
Form of Government
The Founders thought that the form of government, no less than the foundation and purpose of government, derives from human nature. Although human beings possess reason and are capable of acting morally, they do not possess infallible wisdom and they are not always good. From this simple observation it follows that absolute or unlimited government is unsuitable for human beings. The only form of government appropriate for beings of limited wisdom and limited goodness is limited government. When government becomes too large and too powerful, government itself represents a threat to, rather than a protection of, the rights and happiness of the people. This underlies James Madison's famous statement in Federalist 51:
If angels were to govern men, neither external nor internal controls on government would be necessary. In framing a government which is to be administered by men over men, the great difficulty lies in this: You must first enable the government to control the governed; and in the next place, oblige it to control itself.
At the heart of the idea of free government lies a great difficulty: Government must be at once strong enough to protect rights, but not so strong that it threatens those rights. We must first give the government the powers necessary to control the governed, and then ensure that the government controls itself. The solution to this problem is constitutional government.
To limit the powers of the government, the Founders defined and distributed these powers in a written Constitution. Among its other features, the Constitution separates political power between three coordinate branches of the national government—a bicameral legislative branch with staggered elections and different lengths of office, an executive branch chosen indirectly by the Electoral College, and an independent judicial branch equipped with the power to strike down unconstitutional laws—and gives to each significant power to check abuses or usurpations of power by the other branches. This "separation of powers" is intended to make it difficult for any one branch to dominate the whole government. As James Madison wrote in Federalist 47: "The accumulation of all powers, legislative, executive, and judiciary, in the same hands . . . may justly be pronounced the very definition of tyranny." The Constitution aims to keep the separate powers in separate "hands," making it difficult to combine and exercise political power for tyrannical purposes.
Further, the Constitution provides a fairly specific list of what government can do and what it cannot do. For example, Article I, Section 8 of the Constitution enumerates the powers of the legislative branch of government, while the next section, Article I, Section 9 places restrictions on the power of the legislature. The Constitution also separates power between the national government and state and local governments, something often referred to as "federalism." The proper objects of the national government power are few, pertaining to those problems or duties that are national in scope. The bulk of legislative and regulatory power—what the Founders called the "police powers" of regulating the health, safety, and morals of the people—is left with the states. But even here the Constitution, in Article I, Section 10, places important restrictions on the powers states might exercise.
As citizens we can know what the lawful duties and powers of government are by reading the fundamental law of the land, the Constitution. This idea of living under a written constitution is what is sometimes called "constitutionalism." The fundamental law, the Constitution, is superior to the government in the sense that government can do only those things that the Constitution permits. At the same time, when government exercises power over citizens, it must do so by general laws that apply equally to all citizens similarly situated and do not violate or offend the Constitution.
Based on the idea that all citizens possess equal rights, and as the people are the only legitimate fountain of power, American government must offer equal protection of the laws to all citizens. As Supreme Court Justice John Marshall Harlan wrote, "In respect of civil rights, all citizens are equal before the law. The humblest is the peer of the most powerful."
The form of American government is designed to achieve the purpose of government. It is a constitutional government that is limited in its powers and offers citizens the equal protection of laws. This kind of rule, and only this kind of rule, is compatible with the idea of human equality and equal natural rights. When the equal rights of all citizens are protected, they can then go about pursuing happiness. But if citizens wish to secure their rights and obtain and enjoy real happiness, certain civic virtues are no less important than the form of government under which they live.
III. THE AMERICAN PEOPLE: CIVIC VIRTUES
At the end of Federalist 55, James Madison observes that, "republican government presupposes the existence of [civic virtue] in a higher degree than any other form." Political freedom requires limited government—that is, a government that for the most part leaves people alone, while ensuring that their rights are secured. But limited government is risky: When people are left alone, they might be tempted to violate the rights of others, or live irresponsibly, depending on others with money and resources to care for them. Further, limited government will not stay limited unless citizens understand the constitutional limitations on government power, as well as their own duties and responsibilities. Thus, as political freedom requires limited government, limited government, in turn, requires a significant degree of civic virtue on the part of the citizens. These virtues can be divided into four categories:
- Civic Knowledge
The American Founders knew that for citizens to live in a free society with limited government, citizens must be able to control or restrain themselves; otherwise, we would need a police state--that is, a large government of unlimited power--to maintain safety and order. In this sense, self-government means first and foremost governing oneself.
When he was sixteen years old, George Washington copied a list of "Rules of Civility and Decent Behavior" into his school notebook. Most of these 110 rules deal with common etiquette. The last reads: "Labor to keep alive in your breast the little spark of celestial fire called conscience." By "conscience" he meant our ability to recognize the difference between right and wrong. Later in his life Washington expounded upon this theme in his First Inaugural Address, when he said, "there is no truth more thoroughly established than that there exists in the economy and course of nature, an indissoluble union between virtue and happiness." The Founders understood the pursuit of happiness and the pursuit of virtue to be the same thing. In their view, only a moral people can be a happy people.
Washington himself is perhaps the best model of what it means to exercise self-restraint in one's private and public life. The most dramatic examples of his self-restraint can be seen during his command of the Continental Army in the American Revolutionary War. Although he had the power of the army behind him, Washington always deferred to the authority of the civilian government—the Continental Congress—that was often unresponsive to the needs of his army. At a time when the American army was suffering terrible hardships, one of Washington's officers, Lewis Nicola, suggested that the army disregard the civil authority and make Washington a king. But even when tempted with absolute political power, supported by the power of the army, Washington declined. He wrote a letter—reasoned and even-handed—rebuking Nicola, and shaming him for suggesting that Washington and the other troops of the Continental Army had fought for something as low and commonplace as being ruled by a king, and reminded Nicola of the high and noble object of the American cause: self-government.
Washington's self-restraint was again displayed at the end of the Revolutionary War. Instead of demanding high office or political power—which, historically, is the usual tribute assumed by successful war leaders—Washington relinquished power as Commander in Chief of the army. He wrote a circular letter to the state governments, asking only that he be allowed to return to his private life at Mount Vernon.
Self-assertion means that citizens must have the courage to stand up in public and defend their rights, and call attention when government exercises unjust powers or powers not delegated to it. Sometimes a government may usurp the very rights of the people that it was created to protect, and it might do so with a design to oppress the people. The Declaration of Independence says that "...whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these Ends [protecting rights and operating by consent], it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government." This "Right of the People" is the right of revolution, which underlies all other rights.
No government is perfect, of course, because imperfect human beings run all governments. The right of revolution therefore may be rightly asserted only in dire situations, when there is no peaceful way to correct the problems of government abuse. In terms used by the Declaration, revolutions should not be started for "light and transient causes." But when a government engages in a "long train of abuses and usurpations," and demonstrates "a design to reduce (the people) under absolute despotism," then it becomes both the right and the duty of the people to "throw off such government, and provide new guards for their future security."
As Commander of the Continental Army, George Washington asserted himself in the American struggle against the British government, exercising that right of revolution. Washington had served in the British army as a young man and considered himself a loyal British subject. But later he became convinced of the justice of American independence and the need to end British rule of the American colonies. In an address to the soldiers of the Continental Army, Washington challenged his men to assert themselves in defense of their liberty and rights:
The time is now near at hand which must probably determine, whether Americans are to be freemen or slaves; whether they are to have any property they can call their own; whether their Houses, and Farms, are to be pillaged and destroyed, and they consigned to a State of Wretchedness from which no human efforts will probably deliver them. The fate of unborn Millions will now depend, under God, on the courage and conduct of this army. Our cruel and unrelenting enemy leaves us no choice but a brave resistance, or the most abject submission; this is all we can expect. We have therefore to resolve to conquer or die. Our own Country's Honor calls upon us for a vigorous and manly exertion, and if we now shamefully fail, we shall become infamous to the whole world. Let us therefore rely upon the goodness of the Cause, and the aid of the supreme Being, in whose hands Victory is, to animate and encourage us to great and noble Actions. The Eyes of all our Countrymen are now upon us, and we shall have their blessings, and praises, if happily we are the instruments of saving them from the Tyranny meditated against them. Let us therefore animate and encourage each other, and show the whole world, that a free man contending for liberty on his own ground is superior to any slavish mercenary on earth.
Freedom comes at no small cost. American citizens are required to be vigilant—sometimes at considerable personal cost—in defense of their freedom. But how do citizens know when they need to assert themselves? And how ought they to do it? The answer: American citizens must possess civic knowledge.
According to James Madison, "A good government implies two things; first, fidelity to the object of government, which is the happiness of the people; secondly, a knowledge of the means by which that object can be best attained." As discussed above, the American Founders built into the Constitution a number of mechanisms that would curb the power of government, making it difficult for government to violate the liberties and rights of citizens. As important as these improvements were over past governments, however, they were at best "auxiliary precautions." As Madison explained, "a dependence on the people isâ€¦the primary control on the government." The principal responsibility for keeping American government within the confines of the Constitution, and therefore protecting the liberty of the American people, belongs to the American people themselves. Or, as Ben Franklin once quipped, the Americans have been blessed with a constitutional form of government, "if they can keep it!"
Citizens have a number of ways to maintain control over the government. The most obvious way is voting into office candidates who understand and will defend the Constitution. But citizens can also influence those officials already in office by writing them letters or e-mails, or calling them on the telephone. Also, citizens can run for office themselves, and challenge in the next election those who currently hold office. With all these options, and so many ways of exercising each of them, how are citizens to know what they should do? How, for example, should they vote in an upcoming election, or what kind of letters should they write to their Representatives or Senators?
Citizens must understand what the Constitution says about how the government works, and what the government is supposed to do and what it is prohibited from doing. Americans must also understand their responsibilities as citizens, no less than their rights, and be able to recognize when government, or other citizens, infringe upon those rights. This civic knowledge should form the core of American public education. The Northwest Ordinance of 1787, for example—the first federal law governing the western territories of the United States—stated that, "religion, morality, and knowledge, being necessary to good government and the happiness of mankind, schools and the means of education shall forever be encouraged."
In his First Annual Address to Congress, President Washington explained the importance of civic knowledge in America:
Knowledge is, in every country, the surest basis of public happiness. In one in which the measures of government receive their impression so immediately from the sense of the community as in ours, it is proportionally essential. To the security of a free constitution it contributes in various ways: by convincing those who are entrusted with the public administration, that every valuable end of government is best answered by the enlightened confidence of the people; and by teaching the people themselves to know and to value their own rights; to discern and provide against invasions of them; to distinguish between oppression and the necessary exercise of lawful authority; between burdens proceeding from a disregard to their convenience, and those resulting from the inevitable exigencies of society; to discriminate the spirit of liberty from that of licentiousness—cherishing the first, avoiding the last; and uniting a speedy but temperate vigilance against encroachments, with an inviolable respect to the laws.
In his Farewell Address, delivered at the end of his second term of office, President Washington said, "Promote then as an object of primary importance, institutions for the general diffusion of knowledge. In proportion as the structure of a government gives force to public opinion, it is essential that public opinion should be enlightened." Thomas Jefferson was even more direct: "If a nation expects to be ignorant and free in a state of civilization, it expects what never was and never will be." Washington, Jefferson, and the other Founders knew that without enlightened citizens keeping a close eye on their government, the American experiment in freedom would be short lived.
In addition to self-restraint, self-assertion, and civic knowledge, citizens must possess the civic virtue of self-reliance. In order to be truly free, citizens should provide the basic necessities of life for themselves. This will ordinarily require hard work, but so long as citizens can keep most of what they earn they will have a powerful incentive for work, and work makes the character of citizens sturdier. Indeed, the economic well being of the American people is left primarily to them. This presents unlimited opportunities for exercising one's industry, which is the single greatest cause of the rise of American economic prosperity and power. But it is also risky. The freedom to succeed is inseparable from the freedom to fail. Where then do people turn for support and help when they fail? The Founders expected them to turn first to their families.
The Founders understood that strong families and hard work go hand-in-hand with limited government. In 1790, James Wilson emphasized the importance of family this way: "The family is that seminary on which the commonwealth, for its manners as well as for its numbers, must ultimately depend, as its establishment is the source, so its happiness is the end, of every institution of government that is wise and good."
Citizens who could not provide for themselves, and did not have strong families, were expected to turn for help to their churches or synagogues or to local charities. If these were not adequate to their needs they might turn to government for assistance. While some amount of government assistance or welfare might be available, usually at the local or state level, the Founders recognized a danger intrinsic to government welfare or assistance. The danger is that as people become increasingly dependent on government for their basic needs, they are no longer in a position to act as independent citizens and demand that government stay limited within the confines of the Constitution. As Jefferson remarked, "Dependence begets subservience and venality, suffocates the germ of virtue, and prepares fit tools for the designs of ambition" by those in government.
Self-reliant citizens are free citizens in the sense that they are not dependent on others for their basic needs. They do not need a large provider-government, which has the potential to become an intrusive or oppressive government, to meet those needs. In a letter to a recent immigrant, George Washington wrote of the benefits available in America to self-reliant, virtuous citizens: "This country certainly promises greater advantages, than almost any other, to persons of moderate property, who are determined to be sober, industrious, and virtuous members of society." Only an industrious, self-reliant citizenry is able to enjoy fully the blessings of liberty.
Political freedom is a great blessing; it is man's natural right. Free society offers maximum opportunities for human prosperity and happiness. But freedom is also a great responsibility. More is required of a free people than any other. They must be informed, spirited, and civic-minded. In addition to thinking of themselves as individual men and women, and as members of families, churches, and other private associations, Americans must think of themselves as citizens of a free country. The brief sketch above of the conditions of freedom—limited constitutional government and civic virtue on the part of the citizens—is a summary of the political principles and institutions of American constitutional government.
In his First Inaugural Address, George Washington described what was, and still is, at stake in the great American experiment in freedom: "The preservation of the sacred fire of liberty and the destiny of the republican model of government are justly considered as deeply, perhaps as finally, staked on the experiment entrusted to the hands of the American people."
The destiny of America is in our hands. America trusts its future and its security not only to each new generation of Americans, but to those many people who come to this country to make a new life. Chances are the new life they find in America will be better than that they left behind. They should take ownership and pride in their country because, in truth, this land is their land. But all Americans must always remember that their own well being, and the well being of their families and friends, is intrinsically connected to the well being of our country. It is to our advantage, and it is our duty, to make America the best it can be. In carrying out this duty, we can find no better guidance than by remembering the principles of freedom, the principles on which America was founded.