Lead a discussion on how good citizenship means respecting individual rights while at the same time sometimes sacrificing individual rights for the common good, that is, what is beneficial to everyone or almost everyone in a particular community.
Begin by discussing basic human rights. Some of these can be found in the first ten amendments of the United States Constitution called the Bill of Rights.
Rights and Protections
- In a small group, read and discuss the Bill of Rights. Give practical examples of the individual rights found in these amendments.
- In a small group, make a “Bill of Rights” for students at your school.
Although all people have the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, good citizens realize that sometimes they must sacrifice these individual rights for the common good. Good citizens realize that they—in their lifetime—may never reap the benefits of hard work and social involvement. But they continue to work anyway, for the good of those who will follow in their footsteps. This aspect of good citizenship is illustrated in this poem by Will Allen Dromgoole:
The Bridge Builder
An old man going a lone highway,
Came, at the evening cold and gray,
To a chasm vast and deep and wide.
Through which was flowing a sullen tide
The old man crossed in the twilight dim,
The sullen stream had no fear for him;
But he turned when safe on the other side
And built a bridge to span the tide.
“Old man,” said a fellow pilgrim near,
“You are wasting your strength with building here;
Your journey will end with the ending day,
You never again will pass this way;
You’ve crossed the chasm, deep and wide,
Why build this bridge at evening tide?”
The builder lifted his old gray head;
“Good friend, in the path I have come,” he said,
“There followed after me to-day
A youth whose feet must pass this way.
This chasm that has been as naught to me
To that fair-haired youth may a pitfall be;
He, too, must cross in the twilight dim;
Good friend, I am building this bridge for him!”
- Answer in writing: What does the poem mean? What does the poem say to you about your own life as a citizen?