Eleven ways we can save American democracy

There are too many times we as American citizens take a "wait and see" attitude toward events. We go about our daily lives, assuming and hoping that someone else will take care of things — someone in City Hall, the state capital or in Washington. Well, we are that "someone else." And we need to take responsibility now.

Here is a list of 11 things you can do to participate immediately as a citizen of the United States. Eleven simple things you can do to build what President Franklin Delano Roosevelt called "a greater, a more stable and a more tolerant America" because the ultimate success of our democracy rests upon the individual citizens who make up this great Nation.

Vote. By participating in elections at the local, state and national level, we make our opinions heard. Understand the issues. Learn as much as you can about the candidates. Vote responsibly.

Stay informed. Read newspapers, magazines, blogs. Talk to your friends, co-workers, neighbors. Go online and read current Bills before Congress. An educated American is an empowered citizen.

Exercise your right to free speech. When we articulately and intelligently state our opinions, popular or not, we truly live up to the hopes and dreams of the Founding Fathers. Freedom of speech is an extraordinary right.

Support American businesses. When we buy products labeled "Made in USA," we are supporting our economy and creating jobs for our fellow citizens.

Support Americans in need. Katrina. Ike. Devastating forest fires. Our neighbors need us. Help your fellow Americans. Donate your time, services or money to those less fortunate than you.

Use your time meaningfully and wisely. Volunteer for local charities. Help out at the local school or nursing home. Organize a neighborhood clean up.

Let's all do what we can to support each other.

Re-read our founding documents. The principles laid out in the Declaration of Independence, Constitution and the Bill of Rights are timeless and essential. This country's founders envisioned a future we are living out today — and we can turn to these documents whenever our Democratic institutions and expectations are challenged and need to be reinvigorated.

Look to the past for perspective. Our nation's history is rich with moments when strength and resilience transcended hardship and adversity. Look to the lives of our great leaders, presidents and citizens for inspiration.

Teach the next generation. Like anything else, enlightened patriotism comes from education, not ignorance. Teach the children about the special rights and responsibilities we share as Americans, and how they can exercise those rights. Set the example by being a good citizen.

Enjoy and protect America's natural resources. Conserve. Recycle. Help clean up a river or plant a tree. Our democracy deserves a home as beautiful as its ideals.

Above all else: Bet on Good. Believe in America. Believe that together we can forge a better future and better ways of doing things. Believe it, then do it.

It was Robert F. Kennedy who said, "The future does not belong to those who are content with today, apathetic toward common problems and their fellow man alike, timid and fearful in the face of bold projects and new ideas. Rather, it will belong to those who can blend passion, reason and courage in a personal commitment to the ideals of American society."

Passion, reason and courage: These are the lifeblood of American citizenship.

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