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Cook1 Courtney Cook COMM-2020 Week 4 20 February 2011 Citizenship in the United States is a term with an umbrella full of documents that fall underneath it which outline and sculpts our country into what it really means to be a citizen. The three founding documents in our country that underlie are citizenship as Americans are; The Declaration of Independence, The U.S. Constitution, and the Bill of Rights. These three documents which have been come to be identified as, “The Three Pillars of the United States,” each argue for and argue against certain things that pertain to being a citizen in the United States of America; these are the three documents that set a foundation for our country decades ago. Along with these three pillars that have formed a sense of freedom and ability in our country is the movement of grassroots organizations which pertains to the communication and citizenship in our nation. These four “Pillars” in our country have shaped our foundation of what citizenship is defined as. The Declaration of Independence was ratified in our country on the day in which we now celebrate the 4th of July in the year of 1776. This document was essentially made to announce the thirteen colonies that had recently become independent states and were no longer ruled by the British government. This document particularly written by our founding father Thomas Jefferson was a document fighting for their independence from Great Britain. Although this document did not specifically define what citizenship meant it does state the words of, “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their creator with certain unalienable rights that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness” (par. 2). These

Cook2 words have become a very bold statement in United States history because this is a statement fighting for equality which sits under the umbrella of being a citizen and the certain rights that come along with that. It is a little statement with a very bold meaning that is a key part into what we all know as the “American Dream,” and impacts our definition of what we see citizenship in this country look like. Revolution is another key aspect to the document of the Declaration of Independence. Our country wanted to make a drastic change and a change that would be permanent. In the Declaration of Independence it states, “"Whenever any form of government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the right of the people to alter or abolish it” (par. 2). This is a very bold strong statement made in the Declaration stating a permanent revolution is wanted and that the ability is in the people’s hands to forgo what happens with this government instilled in our nation. The second pillar that has been constructed in our nation is the United States Constitution which is the document that is the framework for the organization of the United States; this pillar is the supreme law of our country. The Constitution of the United States was ratified in our country in the year of 1788 in the month of June. In the pocket guide is states that the constitution is a document that demonstrates, "…values of freedom and democracy on which this country was founded” (par. 3). Communication of the government is one of the main points his document holds and is something that is mandated by the law. This document as well is one that does not directly define citizenship but indirectly many statements are made that influences the meaning that we hold about citizenship. The word citizenship and the meaning that is reflected upon this word is communicated in a very negative way through the constitution. In lecture it discusses how communication was perceived as a fundamental requirement of government for

Cook3 the founding fathers in the United States Constitution and citizens are defined in a way as what they are not, rather than in a positive manner by saying what they are. When the 14th amendment passed in 1868, which was the amendment that finally granted former slaves citizenship. Citizenship wasn’t defined in the original constitution of 1778, but in 1868 the word ‘citizenship” was given a meaning. It stated, "All persons born or naturalized in the United States and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States" (Hip Pocket Guide, p. 55). The third pillar that set a foundation for our country was known as the Bill of Rights. The Bill of Rights is a document that goes hand in hand with the United States Constitution; it is made up from the first ten amendments in our constitution. Citizenship is once again not defined in this document, just as it was not defined in the other pillars of the United States. Although citizenship is not directly defined, it does define the rights that we as citizens have and most citizens of the United States think of their freedom and rights from the rights stated in this document. Some of the rights that are stated are; free speech, bearing arms, search and warrants, testimony, rights in trials, etc. Although we have three essential pillars that influence our meaning of citizenship in the United States, there was also another large movement that was a part of defining citizen and the American Revolution. He was a radical named Thomas Paine and he is identified as one of our country’s founding fathers and known as the “Great Champion of Democracy.” He was a powerful man of equal rights whom had great dreams and aspirations for our country. Paine was against slavery and was a man who fought for world peace. The grassroots movement was organizations on a local level and defined as by, “The creation of the movement

Cook4 and the group supporting it are natural and spontaneous, highlighting the differences between this and a movement that is orchestrated by traditional power structure.” Paine was a man against slavery and therefore he fought for the movement towards citizenship for African Americans. Thomas Paine’s ideas and the idea of democracy fighting for equality is very similar to those of the grassroots movements. The Rights of Man, is a key aspect to Paine’s recognition in history for his attitude towards democracy. This was a document published in 1791 that outlined the social institutions and analyzed forms of government. Through this document he defended democracy as a form of government and also criticizes using monarchy as a form of government. Paine believed that freedom was something a man was born with and from that day forward he would always remain being free in the sense of their own rights. These rights included; liberty, property, security, and resistance of oppression. The idea of the grassroots movement and the beliefs that Thomas Paine held are very much so parallel to one another. Thomas Paine was essentially a man who fought for equality and believed in bettering society as a whole. The grassroots movements fit into Paine’s beliefs and ideas in the sense that these type of movements are done to better off the community as a whole which in turn helps society as a whole. Helping one another and the right of everyone being equal is something that Thomas Paine and the idea behind the grassroots movement share with one another. Movements such as these overall improve the meaning behind citizenship and Thomas Paine would be completely in favor on the ability to have such a powerful organization going on to better a community. The Declaration of Independence, United States Constitution, the Bill of Rights and the Grassroots movements are four essential pillars that influenced and sculpted the definition of

Cook5 citizenship in the United States. Although the first definition of citizenship wasn’t until the 14 amendment in 1868, they are all documents that argued for independence and democracy in our country. The “three pillars” that have come over time to communicate what citizenship in our country means and a very strong powerful man named Thomas Paine has shaped and identified our rights as citizens. Although, they weren’t also clearly defined and noted through these documents, through time and movements the topic and confusions over rights as citizens has become less gray and more black and white. Through these many different movements in our history it has created equality and citizenship in communities which helped create our society as a whole.


References Frie, Kristie. Week 2, Week 3 Lecture eCollege Web. 12 Feb. 2011. The United States Constitution: what it says, what it means : the text of the United States Constitution, including an understandable description of each Article and Amendment, right in the palm of your hand. Oxford : Oxford University Press, 2005. Print.

Comm and Citizenship  

British government. This document particularly written by our founding father Thomas Jefferson three founding documents in our country that...

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