In the run-up to elections, there’s always a lot of public exhortations to vote as part of our civic duty.
Fair enough. But let’s also look at the history of the words for citizen and civic.
The root of the word citizen is civic, which means someone who lives in a town. In the earliest usage, the word was attached to the oak leaf crown awarded to someone who save someone else’s life-a fellow citizen.
A more modern perspective comes from Linda Cliatt Wayman, an educator who successfully turned around a number of failing Philadelphia schools. She believes we must think of ourselves as holding the office of citizen for our entire lives (i.e., we can’t be voted out!)
As a citizen, I believe we have the opportunity to be activist on behalf of whatever topic moves our heart or conscience. I don’t believe we have to be continually active, but I do believe every citizen should be impelled to make a difference in the community in some way at some point in their life. The only way our society moves forward is when individuals work together to improve some aspect of our communal life.
Our civic duty may not be as dramatic as saving someone else’s life. But simply taking steps to better the lives of others or to better our democratic system is a worthy use of our civic energies.
Voting is just the starting point in acting in our lifelong ‘office’. What is your next action as a citizen?
May we pursue our paths, taking time for civic action,