G CS 16

Role of the People

The government of the United States protects the freedoms of its people and provides opportunities for citizens to participate in the political process.

Content Statement

16. In the United States, people have rights that protect them from undue governmental interference. Rights carry responsibilities that help define how people use their rights and that require respect for the rights of others.

Content Elaborations

People in the United States have claims to protection from government intrusion in certain aspects of their lives. These claims are called rights.

During the American Revolution, various state bills of rights were drafted. The original U.S. Constitution outlined many rights held by the people (see Art. I, sec. 9 and 10, Art. III, sec. 2, Art. IV, sec. 2).

The federal Bill of Rights not only enumerates many rights, but other unstated rights are alluded to under the Ninth Amendment. The U.S. Supreme Court, in its interpretation of the 14th Amendment’s due- process clause, has instituted the doctrine of incorporation meaning that most of the guarantees in the Bill of Rights also apply to state and local governments.

Many of the rights held by American citizens protect the ability to participate in the political process (e.g., speech, press, assembly, petition, suffrage, hold public office).

There are general responsibilities of citizenship (e.g., respecting the rule of law, paying taxes and fees, accepting responsibility for one’s actions). There also are responsibilities associated with the exercise of particular rights.

Examples include:

  • Entitlement to privileges and immunities – respecting the rights of others;
  • Right of free speech – engaging in civil discourse;
  • Right to bear arms – receiving firearms training;
  • Right to jury trial – serving on juries; and
  • Right to vote – becoming informed on public issues.

Citizenship also entails service to the nation which guarantees the rights of the people. This may include military service, community service and serving in public office.
Individual rights are relative, not absolute. The exercise of rights must be balanced by the rights of others and by the common good.

Expectations for Learning

Explain how the fulfillment of civic responsibilities is related to the exercise of rights in the United States.