Letter to the editor defines Selma citizenship

Published 7:27 pm Saturday, April 18, 2015

Dear editor,

Tourists continue to visit historic Selma as the nation commemorates the 50th anniversary of the Voting Rights Act of 1965.

The legislation was signed into law by President Lyndon Johnson on August 6, 1965. This can also be a time when Selma’s residents recommit themselves to being good American citizens.

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Citizenship means to have full membership in a nation. We live in a democracy, a word that comes from a Greek term that means “rule of the people.”

People can accomplish their goals in a democracy. The nation was built on the American dream.  American citizenship involves certain duties and responsibilities in order to have a successful government. Duties are the “musts” of citizenship. All citizens are required by federal, state and local laws to perform duties.  Studies indicate some citizens’ duties are to obey the laws, pay taxes, serve as jury members if called upon to serve, testify in court if they have evidence to present, and American school children must attend school in order to obtain an education.

The residents of Selma and the nation also have many responsibilities in being citizens. Responsibilities are the “shoulds” of citizenship. Citizens are not required by law to carry out responsibilities, but they are crucial for the success of government.

Researchers say citizens’ responsibilities are to: vote in all elections for which they are eligible; be interested in their government and carefully study its activities; be willing to serve as officials of government if they are elected or appointed to public office; should help the government to enforce laws by cooperating with the police and other law enforcement officials; and should tell their elected officials what they think about the problems facing government.

Voting is perhaps the most important responsibility of an American citizen. A person is not penalized for failure to vote. However, a citizen should take the opportunity to participate in the voting process because he or she plays an important role in determining who will be the leaders in our different governments.

Although the Voting Rights Act of 1965 eliminated barriers to prevent certain groups from voting, today voting apathy is still prevalent among some minorities. A huge number of minority voters did not participate in the 2014 mid-term elections. However, mid-term elections traditionally have low turnouts. The minority vote has clout.

The Republican Party has come to realize that it needs to win over the minority vote. The Republicans enjoyed widespread success in the 2014 mid-term elections.

The real test comes in 2016. According to the Center for American Progress, people of color can influence the outcome of an election. In 2016, to win the presidency – as well as many U.S. Senate races – candidates will need to secure substantial support from voters of color.

The demographic changes in the United States are far from being fully realized: not until 2043 will people of color make up a majority of the U. S. population.

A “good Selma citizen” exercises his or her civic duties and responsibilities.
Gerald Shirley