Engage - Claremont Lincoln University

As Americans, What Is Our Civic Duty and Responsibility?

As an elected official, people often ask me, “Why did you want to run for office?”

And I always feel that I have to take the time and provide some context, because it is not a very simple answer.

But, at the end of my answer, my point is that I felt that I could make a contribution to my city. I felt that I could contribute to the city where my wife and I purchased our first home. The same home in which we were going to raise our newborn daughter.

As an educator, after almost 10 years of public service as a councilman, I always wondered to myself, “How did I receive my sense of civic duty?” If I could figure that out, I could develop a way to motivate others.

While I did not grow up in the early 60’s with my Mom pushing me in a stroller during a civil rights demonstration, I do remember having a postcard with JFK’s picture on it, that I kept in my dresser, on top of my stack of jeans. Every day, when I got dressed for school, I would open that drawer. And I’d see JFK and his famous quote from his inaugural address:

“And so, my fellow Americans: ask not what your country can do for you–ask what you can do for your country.”

Our Civic Duty as Citizens, As Explained by JFK

JFK eloquently speaks of our civic duty. Our civic duty is what we all can do for our country, our state, our city, and our neighborhood—it is the common good that we all share.

What you can do is limited only by your own imagination, because each and every one of us can contribute something to the common good. For example, I am a volunteer board member at a local food pantry that serves people with HIV/AIDS, and I help a local mental health agency raise money to serve children and families. There are even a few easy ways to contribute to your community right now.

So, I ask: What do you do? What can you do?

And most importantly, what are you willing to do to contribute to the common good—to do your civic duty?

Photo credit: © Bobby17 | Dreamstime.com

Victor Manalo

Victor Manalo

Victor Manalo is the Dean of the Claremont Core at CLU. He teaches graduate courses in civic engagement, social welfare policy, practice, and research, human service agency administration, community organizing, and institutional racism. In his own community in the City of Artesia, California, he has served as a Member of the City Council since 2007 and is currently the Mayor.

Claremont Core

Claremont Lincoln University

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