Friday, September 26, 2008
If you believe the polls and the rhetoric, this election is about change in Washington. Yet I have news for you: only an engaged citizenry can help heal our system. To get change in Washington, it has to begin with you.
Here are what I call "The Ten Commandments of Citizenship":
• First, Vote. This is the most basic step democracy asks of us.
• Second, Be informed. Our government simply does not work well if you're not.
• Third, fourth and fifth: Communicate with your representatives. Participate in groups that share your views. And get involved locally to improve your community.
• Number six: Educate your family - and make sure that local schools are educating students - about their responsibilities as citizens.
• Seventh: Understand that in a diverse country, we must work to build consensus.
• Eighth: Understand that our representative democracy works slowly.
• Ninth: Understand that our system is not perfect, but it has served the nation well.
• And finally: Understand that our system is not self-perpetuating; it demands our involvement to survive.
Lee Hamilton is Director of the Center on Congress at Indiana University. He was a member of the U.S. House of Representatives for 34 years.