Civic Definitions- What is a President - History

Civic Definitions- What is a President - History


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These are the top 25 US presidents, according to historians and biographers (and why you won't find Trump on the list)

Historians agree: Abraham Lincoln was the best US president.

For C-SPAN's most recent Presidential Historians Survey, conducted in 2017, nearly 100 historians and biographers rated 43 US presidents. The survey is released after a sitting president's term, so C-SPAN will likely include current President Donald Trump in its next round of the ranking, after he leaves office.

Although the usual election fervor has been overshadowed by the COVID-19 pandemic, President Trump has still been campaigning and holding reelection rallies around the country. In Tulsa, Oklahoma, he spoke to an arena of about 6,200 attendees on June 22, 2020, followed by another rally with 3,000 people on June 23 in Phoenix, Arizona.

A June 30 national poll from the Pew Research Center shows that the incumbent president is currently trailing behind his Democratic opponent, Joe Biden, with only months to go before the November election. According to the poll, 54% of registered voters say they'd support Biden or "lean toward voting for him" if the election were held right now — 44% of those surveyed say the same for President Trump.

In terms of personal qualities, the voters surveyed consider President Trump to be more courageous and energetic than Biden, while Biden pulls ahead of the president in being honest, even-tempered, and a good role model.

The 2017 C-SPAN survey measured 10 qualities of presidential leadership: public persuasion, crisis leadership, economic management, moral authority, international relations, administrative skills, relations with Congress, vision, pursued equal justice for all, and performance within the context of his times.

Scores in each category were then averaged, and the 10 categories were given equal weighting in determining the presidents' total scores.

George Washington came in at No. 2, followed by Franklin D. Roosevelt at No. 3. George H. W. Bush ranked at No. 20, beating out his son George W. Bush who came in at No. 33. Other notable commanders in chief included John F. Kennedy at No. 8, Ronald Reagan at No. 9, and Barack Obama at No. 12.

While some historians weren't shocked that Obama didn't rank higher overall on the list — "That Obama came in at No. 12 his first time out is quite impressive," Douglas Brinkley of Rice University said — others were surprised by his lower-than-expected leadership rankings, including No. 7 in moral authority and No. 8 in economic management.

"But, of course, historians prefer to view the past from a distance, and only time will reveal his legacy," said Edna Greene Medford of Howard University.

Here are the top 25 presidents, according to historians surveyed by C-SPAN.


Contents

The Civic Platform was founded in 2001 as economically liberal, Christian-democratic split from existing parties. Founders Andrzej Olechowski, Maciej Płażyński, and Donald Tusk were sometimes jokingly called "the Three Tenors" by Polish media and commentators. Olechowski and Płażyński left the party during the 2001–2005 parliamentary term, leaving Tusk as the sole remaining founder, and current party leader.

In the 2001 general election the party secured 12.6% of the vote and 65 deputies in the Sejm, making it the largest opposition party to the government led by the Democratic Left Alliance (SLD).

In the 2002 local elections PO stood together with Law and Justice in 15 voivodeships (in 14 as POPiS, in Podkarpacie with another centre-right political parties). They stood separately only in Mazovia.

In 2005, PO led all opinion polls with 26% to 30% of public support. However, in the 2005 general election, in which it was led by Jan Rokita, PO polled only 24.1% and unexpectedly came second to the 27% garnered by Law and Justice (PiS). A centre-right coalition of PO and PiS (nicknamed:PO-PiS) was deemed most likely to form a government after the election. Yet the putative coalition parties had a falling out in the wake of the fiercely contested Polish presidential election of 2005.

Lech Kaczyński (PiS) won the second round of the presidential election on 23 October 2005 with 54% of the vote, ahead of Tusk, the PO candidate. Due to the demands of PiS for control of all the armed ministries (the Defence Ministry, the Ministry of the Interior and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs) and the office of the Prime Minister, PO and PiS were unable to form a coalition. Instead, PiS formed a coalition government with the support of the League of Polish Families (LPR) and Self-Defense of the Republic of Poland (SRP). PO became the opposition to this PiS-led coalition government.

The PiS-led coalition fell apart in 2007 amid corruption scandal with Andrzej Lepper and Tomasz Lipiec [5] and internal leadership disputes. These events led to the new elections in 2007. In the 21 October 2007 parliamentary election, PO won 41.51% of the popular vote and 209 out of 460 seats (now 201) in the Sejm and 60 out of 100 seats (now 56) in the Senate of Poland. Civic Platform, now the largest party in both houses of parliament, subsequently formed a coalition with the Polish People's Party (PSL).

At the 2010 Polish presidential election, following the Smolensk air disaster which killed the incumbent Polish president Lech Kaczyński, Tusk decided not to present his candidature, considered an easy possible victory over PiS leader Jarosław Kaczyński. During the PO primary elections, Bronisław Komorowski defeated the Oxford-educated, PiS defector Foreign Minister Radosław Sikorski. At the polls, Komorowski defeated Jarosław Kaczyński, ensuring PO dominance over the current Polish political landscape. [6]

In November 2010, local elections granted Civic Platform about 30.1 percent of the votes and PiS at 23.2 percent, an increase for the former and a drop for the latter compared to the 2006 elections. [6]

PO succeeded in winning four consecutive elections (a record in post-communist Poland), and Tusk remains as kingmaker. PO's dominance is also a reflection of left-wing weakness and divisions on both sides of the political scene, with PiS suffering a splinter in Autumn 2010. [6]

The 9 October 2011 parliamentary election was won by Civic Platform with 39.18% of the popular vote, 207 of 460 seats in the Sejm, 63 out of 100 seats in the Senate. [7]

In the 2014 European elections, Civic Platform came first place nationally, achieving 32.13% of the vote and returning 19 MEPs. [8]

In the 2014 local elections, PO achieved 179 seats, the highest single number. [9]

In the 2015 presidential election, PO endorsed Bronisław Komorowski, a former member of PO from 2001 till 2010. He lost the election receiving 48.5% of the popular vote, while Andrzej Duda won with 51.5%. [10]

In the 2015 parliamentary election, PO came second place after PiS, achieving 39.18% of the popular vote, 138 out of 460 seats in the Sejm, 34 out of 100 seats in the Senate. [11]

In the 2018 local elections, PO achieved 26.97% of the votes, coming second after PiS. [12]

In the 2019 European elections, PO participated in the European Coalition electoral alliance which achieved 38.47%, coming second after PiS. [13]

Since 2007, when Civic Platform formed the government, the party has gradually moved from its Christian-democratic stances, and many of its politicians hold more liberal positions on social issues. In 2013, the Civic Platform's government introduced public funding of in vitro fertilisation program. Civic Platform also supports civil unions for same-sex couples but is against same-sex marriage and the adoption of children by same-sex couples. The party also currently supports liberalisation of the abortion law, [32] which it had opposed while in government. [33]

Despite declaring in the parliamentary election campaign the will to limit taxation in Poland, the Civic Platform has in fact increased it. The party refrained from implementing the flat tax, increasing instead the value-added tax from 22% to 23% in 2011. [34] It has also increased the excise imposed on diesel oil, alcoholic beverages, tobacco and oil. [35] [36] The party has eliminated many tax exemptions. [37] [38] [39]

In response to the climate crisis, the Civic Platform has promised to end the use of coal for energy in Poland by 2040. [40]

After becoming the biggest opposition party, the Civic Platform became more socially liberal. This tendency is especially popular among the younger generation of party's politicians such as Mayor of Warsaw and candidate in the presidential election Rafał Trzaskowski. The party has also changed its opinion about the social programmes of PiS and PSL, starting to support them. [41] [42] [43]

Today, Civic Platform enjoys support amongst higher class constituencies. Professionals, academics, managers and businessmen vote for the party in large numbers. People with university degrees support the party more than less educated voters. PO voters tend to be those people who generally benefited from European integration and economic liberalisation since 1989 and are satisfied with their life standard. Many PO voters are social liberals who value environmentalism, secularism and Europeanisation. Young people are another voting bloc that support the party, though some of them withdrawed support after their economic and social situation did not improve significantly when PO was in government. Conservatives used to vote for the party before PO moved sharply to the left on economic (e.g., increase of taxes) and social issues (e.g., support for civil unions).

Areas that are more likely to vote for PO are in the west and north of the country, especially parts of the former Prussia before 1918. Many of these people previously used to vote for the Democratic Left Alliance when that party enjoyed support and influence. Large cities in the whole country prefer the party, rather than rural areas and smaller towns. This is caused by the diversity, secularism and social liberalism urban voters tend to value. In urban areas, conservative principles are much less identified with by voters. Large cities in Poland have a better economic climate, which draws support to PO.


Civic Definitions- What is a President - History

The Constitution outlines many of the duties of a president, but modern society and technology have also changed and expanded the roles of a president.

Video: Jobs of the President

The president has many roles as the leader of the executive branch of the U.S. government. Watch this video to learn about the many jobs of the president.

Want to see more from Junior Scholastic magazine?

“Remember, remember always, that all of us . . . are descended from immigrants and revolutionists.”

— Franklin D. Roosevelt

"Citizens by birth or choice, of a common country, that country has a right to concentrate your affections. The name of American, which belongs to you, in your national capacity, must always exalt the just pride of Patriotism, more than any appellation derived from local discriminations."

"We are bound by ideals that . . . teach us what it means to be citizens. Every child must be taught these ideals. Every citizen must uphold them. . . . I ask you to be citizens. Citizens, not spectators. Citizens, not subjects. Responsible citizens building communities of service and a nation of character."

“Change will not come if we wait for some other person, or if we wait for some other time. We are the ones we’ve been waiting for. We are the change that we seek.”

Four Presidents
Who Shook the World

George Washington
(served 1789-97)

During the American Revolution, he led the Continental Army to victory over the British. Then as father of our country he not only refused to become king—he refused to seek a third term as president in order to demonstrate that a peaceful transfer of power was more important than who was in power.

James Madison
Democratic-Republican
(served 1809-17)

Not only did Madison play a key role in creating the U.S. Constitution, but as the fourth president, Madison led the U.S. through the War of 1812.

Abraham Lincoln
Republican
(served 1861-65)

In 1863, the 16th president issued the Emancipation Proclamation, which freed the enslaved people in the Confederate states. His leadership during the Civil War kept the country from splitting apart.

Franklin D. Roosevelt
Democrat
(served 1933-1945)

The 32nd president led the nation during two of its most difficult periods, the Great Depression and World War II.

Supplemental resources for teaching about the presidency
and the executive branch

The official White House website features biographies of every president.

This nonpartisan affiliate of the University of Virginia features famous presidential speeches (many have audio and video).

An award-winning collection from PBS. Documentaries, biographies, interviews, articles, and more provide an in-depth look at the history of the American presidency.

Terms and definitions that pertain to the office of the president

What is the executive branch?

The president leads the executive branch, which is composed of the vice president and the president's cabinet—15 advisers, called secretaries, who oversee departments such as the Departments of Defense and Education.

What is the legislative branch?

The legislative branch is made of the House of Representatives and the Senate. They draft laws, confirm or reject presidential nominations, and have the authority to declare war.

Foreign policy is the way a government interacts with the governments of other nations.

The president enforces U.S. laws, creates policies, hires and fires officials within the executive branch, and appoints federal judges. An example of a Chief Executive function is President John F. Kennedy issuing an executive order to launch the Peace Corps.

The Constitution gives the president the power to sign acts of Congress into law or to veto any bill. An example of the legislative leader role is President Lyndon B. Johnson signing the Voting Rights Act of 1965.

Presidents use their influence to back party candidates and raise money for House and Senate campaigns. One example of this role is President Donald Trump holding campaign rallies for Republicans running for office.

Discover other free social studies topics and middle school teaching resources.

An overview of humanity’s first large societies: how they formed, who ruled them, and how they influenced the world today.

The United States Constitution

The Constitution is the supreme law of the land. It established our federal government and defined our government’s relationship with the states and citizens.

The Civil Rights Movement

Get to know Martin Luther King Jr., Barbara Johns, the Little Rock Nine, and other pioneers of the civil rights movement.

Women’s History: The Struggle for Equality

Learn about important women throughout history—including Susan B. Anthony, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, and Sojourner Truth—and the progress that’s been made in the fight for gender equality.

The History and Heroes of World War II

An overview of World War II: why the U.S. got involved, what citizens did to fight back, and how people worldwide were affected

These inspiring teens fought for what they believed in—and made history in the process.

Social Studies Debate Kit

Teaching the art of debating—and how to write an effective argument essay—can help students master critical-thinking and communication skills.

Mastering Media Literacy and Digital Literacy

In an increasingly digital world, being able to navigate technology skillfully and evaluate online resources for accuracy and trustworthiness is crucial.

Teaching map skills can build students’ geography knowledge—and enhance their understanding of the world in which they live.

An overview of civics: what it means to be a good citizen, how democracy works, and why staying informed and engaged matters—even as kids.


President's Salary

These salary figures range across various top-level executives in various industries, but presidents tend to be very well compensated.

  • Median Annual Salary: $189,600 in May 2018)  
  • Top 10% Annual Salary: $208,000
  • Bottom 10% Annual Salary: $68,360 or less

In May 2018, the median annual wages for chief executives in the top industries in which they worked were as follows:

Manufacturing: $208,000 or more

Professional, scientific, and technical services: $208,000 or more

Healthcare and social assistance: $173,770

Presidents typically receive very attractive compensation packages that might include performance bonuses, stock options, and expense allowances in addition to salary.


What Is the Definition of Presidential Succession?

The U.S. presidential line of succession is the set order of officials who act as the President of the United States if the president dies, becomes incapacitated, resigns or is removed from office by impeachment. The Presidential Succession Act of 1947 was signed into law by Harry Truman in 1947.

The order of presidential succession is Vice President, Speaker of the House, President pro tempore of the Senate, Secretary of State, Secretary of Treasury, Secretary of Defense, Attorney General, Secretary of the Interior, Secretary of Agriculture, Secretary of Commerce, Secretary of Labor, Secretary of Health and Human Services, Secretary of Housing and Urban Development, Secretary of Transportation, Secretary of Energy, Secretary of Education, Secretary of Veteran's Affairs and Secretary of Homeland Security. The order of the cabinet members in the line of presidential succession is determined by the date that each position is created.


Civic Definitions- What is a President - History

Presidents' Day Lessons

Welcome to the Center for Civic Education's Presidents' Day page.

Teach your high school students about the constitutional legacy of George Washington, James Madison, Abraham Lincoln, and Ronald Reagan this Presidents' Day. These free, ready-to-use lessons will engage your students in learning about these important presidents and how they shaped the history and Constitution of our nation. Each lesson was written and reviewed by scholars and contains questions to test student knowledge. Elementary, middle, and high school students can learn the constitutional powers and limitations of the executive branch with our selection of classroom-proven lessons from our We the People: The Citizen & the Constitution student texts.

The president of the United States is among the most powerful political figures in the world. In the international realm, the president speaks for the country and is the symbol of America. At home, the president suggests the policy agenda for Congress and is the leader of his or her political party. Americans look to the president for leadership, while at the same time fearing the concentration of political power in the executive branch. Each of these lessons introduces students to the executive branch and explore the ways that checks and balances limit presidential power. For grades 4–12.
[ Elementary Level ] [ Middle School Level ] [ High School Level ]

This lesson looks at the legacy of George Washington, perhaps the most influential leader in the creation of the American nation. Through his achievements as commander-in-chief during the Revolution, in support of the drafting and ratification of the Constitution, and as first president, Washington was instrumental in transforming the ideals of the Revolution into reality. His career as soldier, revolutionary, constitution-maker, and chief executive of a new nation demanded a range of skills and talents with few precedents in history. For grades 10–12.
[Learn More]

This lesson examines the legacy of the "philosopher statesman," James Madison. Madison combined the intellectual knowledge and creativity of the scholar with the practical savvy of the politician, a man of strong principles who also realized the value of compromise. He was one of the principal architects of the constitutional and political institutions that continue to shape our nation's life today. In his ability to translate ideas into action Madison also exemplified what has become an important characteristic of American citizenship. For grades 10–12.
[Learn More]

This lesson traces the rise of Abraham Lincoln from his humble beginnings to the presidency of the United States. It also examines Lincoln’s ideas and decisions regarding slavery and the use of presidential power to preserve the Federal Union during the Civil War. For grades 10–12.
[Learn More]

This lesson examines the use of presidential powers by Ronald Reagan, the fortieth president of the United States. It explores Article II of the Constitution, which grants the president executive powers. Students will be able to explain and discuss how President Reagan exercised his authority under Article II of the Constitution concerning war powers, domestic policy, and foreign policy. They will be able to explain how the brevity and ambiguity of Article II allows presidents to interpret these powers, especially in relation to Congress. They will be able to evaluate and take positions on the constitutional issues raised by the exercise of these powers, drawing on specific examples from Ronald Reagan’s presidency. For grades 10–12.
[Learn More]

About

This site is brought to you by the Center for Civic Education. The Center's mission is to promote an enlightened and responsible citizenry committed to democratic principles and actively engaged in the practice of democracy. The Center has reached more than 30 million students and their teachers since 1965. Learn more.


Civic Definitions- What is a President - History

Manage Texas county government in our first state-based local government game!

Navigate our court system and guide citizens to the right place.

Learn to control all three branches of the U.S. government!

Run your own presidential campaign!

Election Day is coming, are you prepared to vote?

Saying Goodbye to Adobe Flash

Argument Wars

Argue real Supreme Court cases, and put your lawyering skills to the test.

Branches of Power

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Cast Your Vote

Election Day is coming, are you prepared to vote?

Counties Work

Running a county is a lot of work! Manage things well, and try to get re-elected.

Counties Work: Texas

Manage Texas county government in our first state-based local government game!

Court Quest

Navigate our court system and guide citizens to the right place.

Do I Have a Right?

Run a law firm and test your knowledge of constitutional rights.

Executive Command

Being the president is no easy task. Are you up to the challenge?

Immigration Nation

Guide newcomers through the path to citizenship.

LawCraft

Jump into the law making process of Congress.

NewsFeed Defenders

Fight hidden ads, viral deception, and false reporting as a NewsFeed Defender!


Civic Definitions- What is a President - History

Margaret Stimmann Branson, Associate Director
Center for Civic Education

Table of Contents

The Role of Civic Education

I. Introduction

In the past decade we have witnessed dramatic demands for freedom on the part of peoples from Asia to Africa and from Central and Eastern Europe to Latin America. And as we have seen one totalitarian or authoritarian regime after another toppled and fledgling democratic governments replace them, we may have become too optimistic about the future of democracy. We also may have become too complacent, too sure of democracy's robustness or of its long term viability. History, however, teaches us that few countries have sustained democratic governments for prolonged periods, a lesson which we as Americans are sometimes inclined to forget. Americans, of course, should take pride and confidence from the fact that they live in the world's oldest constitutional democracy and that the philosophical foundations underlying their political institutions serve as a model for aspiring peoples around the world. The "shot heard 'round the world" two centuries ago at the opening of the American Revolution continues to resound today, and it should remind Americans that free institutions are among humanity's highest achievements and worthy of their full energies and earnest devotion to preserve.

Americans also should realize that civic education is essential to sustain our constitutional democracy. The habits of the mind, as well as "habits of the heart," the dispositions that inform the democratic ethos, are not inherited. As Alexis de Toqueville pointed out, each new generation is a new people that must acquire the knowledge, learn the skills, and develop the dispositions or traits of private and public character that undergird a constitutional democracy. Those dispositions must be fostered and nurtured by word and study and by the power of example. Democracy is not a "machine that would go of itself," but must be consciously reproduced, one generation after another.

Civic education, therefore, is-or should be-a prime concern. There is no more important task than the development of an informed, effective, and responsible citizenry. Democracies are sustained by citizens who have the requisite knowledge, skills, and dispositions. Absent a reasoned commitment on the part of its citizens to the fundamental values and principles of democracy, a free and open society cannot succeed. It is imperative, therefore, that educators, policymakers, and members of civil society make the case and ask for the support of civic education from all segments of society and from the widest range of institutions and governments.

It is relatively easy for a society to produce technically competent people. But the kind of society Americans want to live in and the kind of government they want to have requires effort and commitment on the part of its citizens. Americans want a society and a government

    in which human rights are respected

Making that kind of society, that kind of government a reality is the most important challenge Americans face and the most important work they could undertake.

II.What is civic education?

Civic education in a democratic society most assuredly needs to be concerned with promoting understanding of the ideals of democracy and a reasoned commitment to the values and principles of democracy. That does not mean, however, that democracy should be presented as utopia. Democracy is not utopian, and citizens need to understand that lest they become cynical, apathetic, or simply withdraw from political life when their unrealistic expectations are not met. To be effective civic education must be realistic it must address the central truths about political life. The American Political Science Association (APSA) recently formed a Task Force on Civic Education. Its statement of purpose calls for more realistic teaching about the nature of political life and a better understanding of "the complex elements of 'the art of the possible'." The APSA report faults existing civic education because all too often it

III. What are essential components of a good civic education?

Civic knowledge is concerned with the content or what citizens ought to know the subject matter, if you will. In both the National Standards and the Civics Framework for the 1998 National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), which currently is underway in schools across the United States, the knowledge component is embodied in the form of five significant and enduring questions. These are questions that have continued to engage not only political philosophers and politicians they are questions that do-or should-engage every thoughtful citizen. The five questions are:

    What are civic life, politics, and government?

It is important that everyone has an opportunity to consider the essential questions about government and civil society that continue to challenge thoughtful people. Addressing the first organizing question "What are civic life, politics, and government?" helps citizens make informed judgments about the nature of civic life, politics, and government, and why politics and government are necessary the purposes of government the essential characteristics of limited and unlimited government the nature and purposes of constitutions, and alternative ways of organizing constitutional governments. Consideration of this question should promote greater understanding of the nature and importance of civil society or the complex network of freely formed, voluntary political, social, and economic associations which is an essential component of a constitutional democracy. A vital civil society not only prevents the abuse or excessive concentration of power by government the organizations of civil society serve as public laboratories in which citizens learn democracy by doing it.

The second organizing question "What are the foundations of the American political system?" entails an understanding of the historical, philosophical, and economic foundations of the American political system the distinctive characteristics of American society and political culture and the values and principles basic to American constitutional democracy, such as individual rights and responsibilities, concern for the public good, the rule of law, justice, equality, diversity, truth, patriotism, federalism, and the separation of powers. This question promotes examination of the values and principles expressed in such fundamental documents as the Declaration of Independence, the U.S. Constitution, The Federalist Papers, and landmark Supreme Court decisions. Study of the nation's core documents now is mandated by several states including California, Ohio, South Carolina, Florida, and Kentucky. The United States Commission on Immigration Reform in its 1997 Report to Congress (U.S. Commission on Immigration, 1997), strongly recommended attention to the nation's founding documents saying:

The third organizing question "How does the government established by the Constitution embody the purposes, values, and principles of American democracy?" helps citizens understand and evaluate the limited government they have ordained and established and the complex dispersal and sharing of powers it entails. Citizens who understand the justification for this system of limited, dispersed, and shared power and its design are better able to hold their governments-local, state, and national-accountable and to ensure that the rights of individuals are protected. They also will develop a considered appreciation of the place of law in the American political system, as well as of the unparalleled opportunities for choice and citizen participation that the system makes possible.

The fourth organizing question "What is the relationship of the United States to other nations and to world affairs?" is important because the United States does not exist in isolation it is a part of an increasingly interconnected world. To make judgments about the role of the United States in the world today and about what course American foreign policy should take, citizens need to understand the major elements of international relations and how world affairs affect their own lives, and the security and well being of their communities, state, and nation. Citizens also need to develop a better understanding of the roles of major international governmental and non governmental organizations, because of the increasingly significant role that they are playing in the political, social, and economic realms.

The final organizing question "What are the roles of citizens in American democracy?" is of particular importance. Citizenship in a constitutional democracy means that each citizen is a full and equal member of a self governing community and is endowed with fundamental rights and entrusted with responsibilities. Citizens should understand that through their involvement in political life and in civil society, they can help to improve the quality of life in their neighborhoods, communities, and nation. If they want their voices to be heard, they must become active participants in the political process. Although elections, campaigns, and voting are central to democratic institutions, citizens should learn that beyond electoral politics many participatory opportunities are open to them. Finally, they should come to understand that the attainment of individual goals and public goals tend to go hand in hand with participation in political life and civil society. They are more likely to achieve personal goals for themselves and their families, as well as the goals they desire for their communities, state, and nation, if they are informed, effective, and responsible citizens.

Civic Skills: Intellectual and Participatory

The second essential component of civic education in a democratic society is civic skills. If citizens are to exercise their rights and discharge their responsibilities as members of self-governing communities, they not only need to acquire a body of knowledge such as that embodied in the five organizing questions just described they also need to acquire relevant intellectual and participatory skills.

Intellectual skills in civics and government are inseparable from content. To be able to think critically about a political issue, for example, one must have an understanding of the issue, its history, its contemporary relevance, as well as command of a set of intellectual tools or considerations useful in dealing with such an issue.

The intellectual skills essential for informed, effective, and responsible citizenship sometimes are called critical thinking skills. The National Standards for Civics and Government and the Civics Framework for the 1998 National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) categorize these skills as identifying and describing explaining and analyzing and evaluating, taking, and defending positions on public issues. A good civic education enables one to identify or give the meaning or significance of things that are tangible such as the flag, national monuments, or civic and political events. It also enables one to give the meaning or significance of intangibles, such as ideas or concepts including patriotism, majority and minority rights, civil society, and constitutionalism.

The ability to identify emotional language and symbols is of particular importance for citizens. They need to be able to discern the true purposes for which emotive language and symbols are being employed.

Another intellectual skill which good civic education fosters is that of describing. The ability to describe functions and processes such as legislative checks and balances or judicial review is indicative of understanding. Discerning and describing trends, such as participation in civic life, immigration, or employment helps the citizen fit current events into a longer term pattern.

Good civic education seeks to develop competence in explaining and analyzing. If citizens can explain how something should work, for example the American federal system, the legal system, or the system of checks and balances, they will be more able to detect and help correct malfunctions. Citizens also need to be able to analyze such things as the components and consequences of ideas, social, political, or economic processes, and institutions. The ability to analyze enables one to distinguish between fact and opinion or between means and ends. It also helps the citizen to clarify responsibilities such as those between personal and public responsibilities or those between elected or appointed officials and citizens.

In a self-governing society citizens are decision-makers. They need, therefore, to develop and continue to improve their skills of evaluating, taking, and defending positions. These skills are essential if citizens are to assess issues on the public agenda, to make judgments about issues and to discuss their assessment with others in public or private.

In addition to the acquisition of knowledge and intellectual skills, education for citizenship in a democratic society must focus on skills that are required for informed, effective, and responsible participation in the political process and in civil society. Those skills can be categorized as interacting , monitoring , and influencing . Interacting pertains to the skills citizens need to communicate and to work cooperatively with others. To interact is to be responsive to one's fellow citizens. To interact is to question, to answer, and to deliberate with civility, as well as to build coalitions and to manage conflict in a fair, peaceful manner. Monitoring politics and government refers to the skills citizens need to track the handling of issues by the political process and by government. Monitoring also means the exercising of oversight or "watchdog" functions on the part of citizens. Finally, the participatory skill of influencing refers to the capacity to affect the processes of politics and governance, both the formal and the informal processes of governance in the community.

It is essential that the development of participatory skills begins in the earliest grades and that it continues throughout the course of schooling. The youngest pupils can learn to interact in small groups or committees, to pool information, exchange opinions or formulate plans of action commensurate with their maturity. They can learn to listen attentively, to question effectively, and to manage conflicts through mediation, compromise, or consensus-building. Older students can and should be expected to develop the skills of monitoring and influencing public policy. They should learn to research public issues using electronic resources, libraries, the telephone, personal contacts, and the media. Attendance at public meetings ranging from student councils to school boards, city councils, zoning commissions, and legislative hearings ought to be a required part of every high school student's experience. Observation of the courts and exposure to the workings of the judicial system also ought to be a required part of their civic education. Observation in and of itself is not sufficient, however. Students not only need to be prepared for such experiences, they need well planned, structured opportunities to reflect on their experiences under the guidance of knowledgeable and skillful mentors.

If citizens are to influence the course of political life and the public policies adopted, they need to expand their repertoire of participatory skills. Voting certainly is an important means of exerting influence but it is not the only means. Citizens also need to learn to use such means as petitioning, speaking, or testifying before public bodies, joining ad-hoc advocacy groups, and forming coalitions. Like the skills of interacting and monitoring, the skill of influencing can and should be systematically developed.

Civic Dispositions: Essential Traits of Private and Public Character

The third essential component of civic education, civic dispositions, refers to the traits of private and public character essential to the maintenance and improvement of constitutional democracy.

Civic dispositions, like civic skills, develop slowly over time and as a result of what one learns and experiences in the home, school, community, and organizations of civil society. Those experiences should engender understanding that democracy requires the responsible self governance of each individual one cannot exist without the other. Traits of private character such as moral responsibility, self discipline, and respect for the worth and human dignity of every individual are imperative. Traits of public character are no less consequential. Such traits as public spiritedness, civility, respect for the rule of law, critical mindedness, and willingness to listen, negotiate, and compromise are indispensable to democracy's success.

Civic dispositions that contribute to the political efficacy of the individual, the healthy functioning of the political system, a sense of dignity and worth, and the common good were identified in the National Standards for Civics and Government . In the interest of brevity, those dispositions or traits of private and public character might be described as:

    Becoming an independent member of society. This disposition encompasses adhering voluntarily to self-imposed standards of behavior rather than requiring the imposition of external controls, accepting responsibility for the consequences of one's actions and fulfilling the moral and legal obligations of membership in a democratic society.

IV. Where and how does civic education take place?

Formal instruction in civics and government should provide a basic and realistic understanding of civic life, politics, and government. It should familiarize students with the constitutions of the United States and the state in which they live, because these and other core documents are criteria which can be used to judge the means and ends of government.

Formal instruction should enable citizens to understand the workings of their own and other political systems, as well as the relationship of the politics and government of their own country to world affairs. Good civic education promotes an understanding of how and why one's own security, quality of life, and economic position is connected to that of neighboring countries, as well as to major regional, international, and transnational organizations.

Formal instruction should emphasize the rights and responsibilities of citizens in a constitutional democracy. The Declaration of Independence, which many consider to be an extended preamble to the United States Constitution, holds that governments are instituted to secure the rights of citizens. Those rights have been categorized in various ways but a useful and generally accepted categorization divides them in this manner:

    Personal rights such as freedom of thought, conscience, expression, and association and freedom of residence, movement, and travel.

Formal instruction in civics and government should be no less attentive to the responsibilities of citizens in a constitutional democracy. An understanding of the importance of individual rights must be accompanied by an examination of personal and civic responsibilities. For American democracy to flourish, citizens not only must be aware of their rights, they must also exercise them responsibly and they must fulfill those personal and civic responsibilities necessary to a self-governing, free, and just society. Those responsibilities include:

    Personal responsibilities such as taking care of one's self, supporting one's family, and caring for, nurturing, and educating one's children, accepting responsibility for the consequences of one's actions, adhering to moral principles, considering the rights and interests of others, and behaving in a civil manner.

In addition to the formal curriculum, good civic education is attentive to the informal curriculum. The informal curriculum encompasses the governance of the school community and the relationships among those within it, as well as the "extra" or co-curricular activities that a school provides.

The importance of the governance of the school community and the quality of the relationships among those within it can scarcely be overemphasized. Classroom and schools should be managed by adults who govern in accord with democratic values and principles, and who display traits of character, private and public, that are worthy of emulation. Students also should be held accountable for behaving in accord with fair and reasonable standards and for respecting the rights and dignity of others, including their peers.

Research has consistently demonstrated the positive effects of co-curricular activities. Students who participate in them are more motivated to learn, more self confident, and exhibit greater leadership capabilities. Further, a major new survey, the National Longitudinal Study on Adolescent Health (1997), has found that "connectedness with school" is a significant protective factor in the lives of young people. "School engagement is a critical protective factor against a variety of risky behaviors, influenced in good measure by perceived caring from teachers and high expectations for student performance."

Fortunately opportunities for co-curricular activities related to civic education have been expanding in the United States, and they need to be even more encouraged. Some activities have become regional or national events such as mock elections, mock trials, and History Day. Two nation-wide programs developed by the Center for Civic Education have now involved more than 26 million students. We the People. The Citizen and the Constitution engages students in mock legislative hearings on constitutional issues, and Project Citizen teaches middle school students how to identify, research, and devise solutions for local problems, as well as how to make realistic plans for gaining their acceptance as public policies. Both We the People. and Project Citizen not only bring students into direct contact with government at all levels and with organizations in civil society, these programs have had other positive civic consequences as well.

During the Spring of 1993, Professor Richard A. Brody of Stanford University conducted a study of 1,351 high school students from across the United States. The study was designed to determine the degree to which civics curricula in general and the We the People. program in particular affect students' political attitudes. The study focused on the concept of "political tolerance." "Political tolerance" refers to citizens' respect for the political rights and civil liberties of all people in the society, including those whose ideas they may find distasteful or abhorrent. It is a concept which encompasses many of the beliefs, values, and attitudes that are essential in a constitutional democracy.

Among the most important findings of the Brody study were these:

    Overall, students in high school civics, government, and American history classes display more "political tolerance" than the average American.

Present day scholars tend to agree with de Toqueville's observations about the importance of voluntarism and of a vibrant civil society. Seymour Martin Lipset contends that

The record of American youth for community service is of particular interest and is, in general, encouraging. In a recent study involving more than 8,000 students in grades six through twelve, about half of those interviewed reported participation in some type of service activity. Among those who participated regularly, 12 percent gave more that 30 hours and 19 percent more than 10 hours. Almost all (91 percent) of the students who participated in the 1995-96 school year indicated that they expected to continue to serve. (U.S. Department of Education, 1997.)

Among the more significant findings of that study of student participation in community service activities are these:

    While many students were involved, not all kinds of students were involved equally. Those who were more likely to participate were students who received high grades, females, students for whom English was the primary language they spoke at home, and 11th and 12th graders. By contrast, students who received lower grades, males, and 6th through 10th graders were less likely to participate.

V. What evidence is there of the need to improve civic education?

Americans still believe that schools have a civic mission and that education for good citizenship should be the schools' top priority. The 28th Annual Phi Delta Kappa/Gallup Poll conducted in 1996 asked respondents what they considered to be the most important purpose of the nation's schools, apart from providing a basic education. "To prepare students to be responsible citizens" was considered "very important" by more people than any other goal. Nationally 86 percent of those with no children in school and those with children in public schools were in agreement the percentage in agreement shot up to 88 percent for nonpublic school parents. When Phi Delta Kappa/Gallup conducted a follow-up poll of just teachers the results were the same. (Landon, 1996.) Eighty four percent of America's teachers said "to prepare students for responsible citizenship was "very important," while another 15 percent called it "quite important."

A survey which compared results from the United States with those of eleven other countries in the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) also is revealing. (U.S. Department of Education, 1997.) When Americans were asked which qualities or aptitudes schools consider "essential" or "very important," 86 percent said "being a good citizen." Unfortunately, when Americans were asked if they had confidence that schools have a major effect on the development of good citizenship only 59 percent said that they did. How justified is that lack of confidence? A brief review of recent research affords some disconcerting evidence.

    The nation's oldest and most comprehensive assessment of the attitudes of freshmen at 464 institutions is conducted annually by the Higher Education Research Institute at the University of California at Los Angeles. The American Freshman: National Norms for Fall 1997 , (Sax & Astin et.al. 1997), its most recent report, found that "this year's college freshmen exhibit higher levels of disengagement-both academically and politically-than any previous entering class of students."

When asked to identify the causes of American ignorance of the document which they profess to revere and which they acknowledge matters a great deal in their daily lives, Rendell faulted the schools failure to teach civics and government. He said he believed Americans lack of knowledge stems partly from an education system that tends to treat the Constitution in the context of history, rather than as a living document that shapes current events. (Morin, 1997.) U.S. Secretary of Education, Richard W. Riley was equally dismayed by the results of the National Constitution Center's study. In a press release issued September 15, 1997, Riley said

The same NAEP Report Card also showed that although some students made gains in civics proficiency across the twelve year period separating the 1976 and 1988 assessments, most did not. At age 17, the performance of students attending schools in each of the types of communities studied-advantaged and disadvantaged, urban and other-declined significantly. There were significant gaps in the performance of most students. Particularly disturbing were the disparities among subpopulations. Eighth and twelfth grade males were more likely than their female peers to reach the highest levels of civic proficiency as defined by NAEP. The percentages of Black and Hispanic students who reached the uppermost levels of proficiency were far smaller than the percentage of White students who did.

A recent review of research on one of the least recognized causes of poor quality teaching (Ingersoll, 1998) is sobering. The problem is out-of-field teaching, or teachers being assigned to teach subjects that do not match their training or education. It is more widespread and more serious than has been recognized. It happens in well over half of the secondary schools in the nation in any given year, both rural and urban, affluent and low income. Low income public schools, however, have a higher level of out-of-field teaching than do schools in more affluent communities. Studies also show that recently hired teachers are more often assigned to teach subjects for which they are not trained than are experienced teachers. Lower-achieving classes are more often taught by teachers without a major or minor in the field than are higher-achieving classes. Junior high and middle school classes also are more likely than senior high classes to be taught by less than qualified teachers.

More than half of all secondary school history students in the country now are being taught by teachers with neither a major nor a minor in history. No data currently are available on the subject matter qualifications of teachers of civics and government, but one could surmise that the numbers of teachers with majors or minors in political science or allied fields would be even less.

VI. What is the relationship between civic education and character education?

In the early days of our republic, schools were expected to induce pupils to act virtuously. Acting virtuously meant more specifically that one should act with due restraint over his or her impulses, due regard for the rights and opinions of others, and reasonable concern for the probable and the long-term consequences of one's actions.

Virtue in individuals then was seen as an important public matter. "Public virtue cannot exist in a nation without private. " said John Adams. Jefferson agreed with him saying "Public virtue is the only foundation of Republics. There must be a positive passion for the public good, the public interest. established in the minds of the people, or there can be no Republican government, no any real Liberty." It is interesting to note that Adams' warning is echoed in the National Council for the Social Studies (NCSS, 1996) Position Statement "Fostering Civic Virtue: Character Education in the Social Studies." That bold and well-written position statement concludes with these words:

Research also tells us that the ethos or culture of the school and of the classroom exert powerful influences on what students learn about authority, responsibility, justice, civility and respect. Finally, we know that one dynamic by which individuals acquire desired traits of private and public character is through exposure to attractive models of behavior. Probably no one has explained that dynamic better than Robert Coles in The Moral Intelligence of Children , (Coles, 1997). Coles tells us that:

How can civic education strengthen and complement the development of character? Primary responsibility for the cultivation of ethical behavior and the development of private character, including moral character, lies with families, religious institutions, work settings, and the other parts of civil society. Schools, however, can and should play a major role in the overall development of the character of students. Effective civic education programs should provide students with many opportunities for the development of desirable traits of public and private character. Learning activities such as the following tend to promote character traits needed to participate effectively. For example,

    Civility, courage, self-discipline, persistence, concern for the common good, respect for others, and other traits relevant to citizenship can be promoted through cooperative learning activities and in class meetings, student councils, simulated public hearings, mock trials, mock elections, and student courts.

VII. Policy Recommendations

    Sustained and systematic attention should be given to civic education in the K-12 curriculum. Although the National Education Goals, as well as the goals, curricular requirements, and policies of every state, express the need for and extol the value of civic education, this vital part of the student's overall education is seldom given sustained and systematic attention in the K-12 curriculum. Inattention to civic education stems in part from the false assumption that the knowledge and skills citizens need emerge as by-products of the study of other disciplines or as an outcome of the process of schooling itself.

While it is true that history, economics, literature, and other subjects do enhance students' understanding of government and politics, they cannot replace sustained, systematic attention to civic education. Civics should be seen as a central concern from kindergarten through twelfth grade, whether it is taught as a part of other curricula or in separate units or courses.

We recommend that states and school districts give serious consideration to the allocation of sufficient time for civics and government. A proposed allocation is offered below for purposes of stimulating discussion.

Requirements by Grade
Grade Specific Treatment Treatment in Other Subjects
K - 2 30 hours per school year at each grade, e.g., focus on rules, authority, justice, responsibility Primary and elementary - a minimum of 30 hours per school year, e.g., as part of instruction in reading, language arts, math, science, physical education, etc.
3 - 4 40 hours per school year at each grade, e.g., community and state studies focusing on local and state government
5 40 hours per school year, e.g., integrated into a course in US History/Civics and Government/Geography Teams of middle-grade teachers develop integrated curriculum units infusing content standards for civics and government, e.g., a language arts/literature unit focusing on the theme of power and authority a science unit on environmental pollution focusing on the public policy aspects of the issue
6 - 7 Four two-week units at each grade (approx. 30 hours per school year), e.g., focus on comparative government as part of a World Civilization/Area Studies program
8 One semester course (approx. 60 hours), e.g., US Constitutional Government
9 - 10 Six two-week units at each grade (approx. 40 hours per school year), e.g., focus on comparative political philosophies and political systems in a World History/Global Studies course Teachers planning high school courses in other subjects could use the content standards for civics and government to develop thematic organizers, e.g., a technology education class exploring how safety procedures and work place rules protect everyone.
11 60 hours per school year as an integral part of specific social science course work, e.g., 20th-Century US History and Government
12 Full-year course (120 hours), e.g., Applied Civics/Participation in Government
NOTE: For grades K-4, 30 minutes per day was used as an average instructional period. For grades 5-12, 40 minutes per day was used as an average instructional period.

    Because the maintenance and improvement of our constitutional democracy is dependent upon the knowledge, skills, and traits of public and private character of all our citizens, we recommend a national initiative to revitalize civic education. A nationwide initiative in civic education could focus on the importance of civic education for every child in America which provides a grounding in the rights and responsibilities of members of a constitutional democracy. Such an initiative would increase civic literacy, foster civility among citizens,promote understanding and appreciation of democratic institutions and processes, and enhance a sense of political efficacy.

The groundwork for the renewal of civic education has already been laid by more than two decades of commission reports, books, and articles by educators, scholars, and journalists. In 1987 the bicentennial of the U.S. Constitution occasioned an outpouring of interest in the substance of civic education. In 1991, CIVITAS: A Framework for Civic Education was published and in 1994, the National Standards for Civics and Government were completed. These Standards , developed in response to the Educate America Act, continue to receive national and international acclaim. They delineate what students should know and be able to do when they complete grades 4, 8, and 12. The most recent call for action is the final report of the National Commission on Civic Renewal released in June, 1998. That report, A Nation of Spectators: How Civic Disengagement Weakens America and What We Can Do About It , calls upon the American people to "once again rise to the challenge of self government" and "to advance the cause of school-based civic education."

The time is ripe for a nationwide initiative that could promote increased citizen interest, understanding, and participation in local, state, and national government, as well as in the civic associations, processes, and purposes of civil society.

The principal aims of this initiative would be to:

    deepen understanding of the historical, philosophical, political, social, and economic foundations of American constitutional democracy.

Revitalized civic education can provide significant benefits for all Americans. A nation-wide initiative can:

    increase understanding of the importance and relevance of politics and government and of civil society to the daily lives of all Americans, e.g., their safety and security, education, employment, health, recreation, and overall quality of life.

    be clearly focused on academic achievement.

    Despite the fact that National Education Goals 3 and 6 prominently feature citizenship, the annual reports of the National Education Goals Panel have yet to report on achievement in civic and government or on progress toward "responsible citizenship."

    Many states and districts mandate testing programs in mathematics, reading, and language arts for elementary grades. Seldom is civic education included in these mandates. Consequently, teachers spend considerable more time working with students on math and reading and neglect civic education. We recommend that all of the eight disciplines identified in the Goals 2000: Educate America Act-English, mathematics, science, foreign languages, civic and government, economics, arts, history, and geography-be given attention.

VIII. Conclusion

In the United States education has traditionally been the responsibility of each state. The nation's governors, ever mindful of states' rights, have resented and resisted federal intrusions into what they have considered their domain. At this "summit" meeting, however, the governors conceded that education had to be improved and that the states by themselves could not effect the improvements that commission after commission and study after study had said was essential. Nor were the governors deaf to the clamor for educational reform coming from parents, employers, and the media.

The chief executives of the 50 states, including Bill Clinton, then governor of Arkansas and chairman of the National Governors Association education committee, believed that an appropriate starting point was to get agreement on what it was that the nation's schools ought to achieve. In their judgment the focus of America's schools should be sharpened and a declaration of purposes or a statement of national goals set forth. The governors, however, wanted the national goals to be more than verbiage or pious hopes. Progress toward the goals was to be measured against high standards and by testing at national and state levels. The standards were to specify what all students should know and be able to do when they completed grades 4, 8, and 12. The plan was greeted with applause from many segments of society-parents, educators, employers, and legislators. Diane Ravitch, a long time proponent of reform, was jubilant. She was later to say that she believed "what may well be an historic development had taken place. "Unlike most other modern societies, this nation has never established specific standards as goals for student achievement those nations that do have standards view them as invaluable means of ensuring both equity and excellence." (Ravitch, 1993).

In the hope of ensuring both equity and excellence, the National Governors Association and the United States Congress moved forward, paying particular attention to civic education. The text of the goals statement adopted by the National Governors Association in March, 1990 declared:

The National Education Goals

Goal 3: Student Achievement and Citizenship

By the year 2000, all students will leave grades 4, 8, and 12 having demonstrated competency over challenging subject matter including English, mathematics, science, foreign languages, civics and government, economics, arts, history, and geography, and every school in America will ensure that all students learn to use their minds well, so they may be prepared for responsible citizenship, further learning, and productive employment in our Nation's modern economy.

All students will be involved in activities that promote and demonstrate. good citizenship, community service, and personal responsibility.

Goal 6: Adult Literacy and Lifelong Learning

By the year 2000, every adult American will be literate and will possess the knowledge and skills necessary to compete in a global economy and exercise the rights and responsibilities of citizenship (emphasis added).

As this report and those of other concerned groups of Americans make clear, we as a people have not yet achieved the goals of equity and excellence in education that we have set for ourselves. We know and have recognized from our founding that education for citizenship is essential, if we are to maintain and improve our constitutional democracy on that point there is general, if not universal, agreement. We also know that a new standard of an educated citizenry is needed, if we are to meet the challenges of the next century.


What Is America's National Identity?

Many were elated and approved of President Trump&rsquos July speech in Warsaw, Poland acknowledging the central role Western civilization plays in defining who we are and what we believe. Our freedom and survival depend on defending it, he said. Beyond that, he celebrated Western civilization as something extraordinary: &ldquoWhat we&rsquove inherited from our ancestors has never existed to this extent before.&rdquo

A vocal few, popular in left-wing opinion circles, condemned Mr. Trump&rsquos remarks as an affront to multiculturalism, labeling his linkage of us with Western civilization, and our pride in it, as &ldquotribalism, white nationalism, and racism&rdquo, claiming that references to Western civilization and ancestors are code words for the above-mentioned vices. For some, even the broad term &ldquoWestern civilization&rdquo is offensive and prejudicial since, as with all definitions, it necessarily conveys something distinctive and thus circumscribed.

The question we should answer is: does a country or nation need an identity, a unique identity with salient features that distinguish it from other countries and nations? In Democracy in America, Alexis de Tocqueville gave a resounding affirmation to the need for a specific identity. He wrote that a corporate entity remains what it is as long as it operates by the principles upon which it was founded. When it changes those principles, it becomes something entirely different, and the success it had, based on its original formula, becomes uncertain and imperiled. It atrophies and declines. He spoke not against periodic tinkering but warned against fundamental transformation.

According to the wise and prescient de Tocqueville, we define an entity by its original principles and the values that created its success. These are the seeds that animate it and supply its people with special spirit. What, then, is America&rsquos identity?

Some say it lies in our Constitution and Bill of Rights, which delineate the liberties that enshrine our peoplehood and, on a functional level, make possible a daily life open to achievement, aspirations, and human potential. Our way of life and the blessings that have come to us depend on everyone living within this Constitutional framework and by precluding its replacement or abridgement with another set of laws claiming to be a &ldquohigher morality&rdquo or temporarily more important, or by enacting waivers or special accommodation in the name of multiculturalism.

There are those today wishing to sideline the Constitution and our historic way of life by invalidating the men, and thus the ideas, behind it. Using charges of racism as the singular and only important lens in which to judge a person&rsquos value, they nullify the totality, the overwhelming contributions, and extraordinary sacrifices of great men and women of a different era. Meanwhile, they grant themselves unassailable superiority and rigid final judgment simply because of their claims to victimhood or for espousing one of the many isms in today&rsquos pantheon for self-righteous virtue signaling. A nation&rsquos historic identity is being replaced by identity politics, culminating frequently in automatic indictment of historical figures simply because their race or moral values are now out of fashion.

There are those in America wishing to define us strictly as a nation of tolerance and inclusivity, this deification resulting often, as in Europe, in tolerating the intolerable and including everyone and everything to the point of endangering those in society not ensconced within rarified and protective gates. They think the best identity is no identity. But this vacuum and void, as witnessed in Europe, allows for other assertive or aggressive identities and mores to creep within and replace, zone by zone for surely, strong and energized identities will replace the mushy identity of No Identity.

Though tolerance is a laudable theme, it is found elsewhere and is not an exclusive element of Americanism. The President was correct in underscoring the importance of Western civilization and how it connects and ties America and Europe. But America moved Western civilization beyond its previous European contours. It fashioned something more grand, a majestic idea, something that not only preceded the Constitution, but from the time of Plymouth Rock distinguished America from other Western polities, unfolding into the American civilization. It is the Judeo-Christian ethos.

Though its roots began in a religious and idealistic outlook, this ethos shortly developed into a civic attitude and philosophy, shaping the themes and civic perspective that were America&rsquos foundation and key to our freedom and prosperity. It supplies a set of moral and philosophic principles regarding economic, social, personal, and political life. Among its distinguishing features are: personal responsibility, liberty, seeing man as an individual, a work ethic, rights from God, meritocracy, rights to property and how one makes his living, and freedom of religion and conscience. Together with these principles were the uniquely American ideals of fair play, rugged individualism, innovation, volunteerism, speaking one&rsquos mind, and demarcating between right and wrong.

America is much more than a land mass between the Atlantic and the Pacific. It is more than just a country. It is a nation a nation with an exceptional identity born in a transcendent idea. The Judeo-Christian ethos made us singular among the nations.

The civic Judeo-Christian ethos does not demand adherence to the details of religion or to a particular form of worship or religious creed, nor loyalty to a particular religion. The ethos is open to all, just as is Western civilization. That its founders and ancestors were mostly white is not a structural roadblock to all sharing in its outlook, except in the mind of racialists eager to impute racism in anything distinctive or weaponize against those with whom they disagree.

Transnationalists determined to weaken and denude America know their route to victory lies in condemning the Judeo-Christian ethic which has provided America with its identity and life breath and those at war with Judeo-Christianism know that in bringing down America the Judeo-Christian outlook will have lost its most vital fortress.

The Judeo-Christian ethos is an American treasure, a morality, to be defended and preserved, a gift and legacy to pass on to future generations.

Rabbi Aryeh Spero is author of Push Back: Reclaiming our American Judeo-Christian Spirit (Evergreen) and president of Caucus for America.

Many were elated and approved of President Trump&rsquos July speech in Warsaw, Poland acknowledging the central role Western civilization plays in defining who we are and what we believe. Our freedom and survival depend on defending it, he said. Beyond that, he celebrated Western civilization as something extraordinary: &ldquoWhat we&rsquove inherited from our ancestors has never existed to this extent before.&rdquo

A vocal few, popular in left-wing opinion circles, condemned Mr. Trump&rsquos remarks as an affront to multiculturalism, labeling his linkage of us with Western civilization, and our pride in it, as &ldquotribalism, white nationalism, and racism&rdquo, claiming that references to Western civilization and ancestors are code words for the above-mentioned vices. For some, even the broad term &ldquoWestern civilization&rdquo is offensive and prejudicial since, as with all definitions, it necessarily conveys something distinctive and thus circumscribed.

The question we should answer is: does a country or nation need an identity, a unique identity with salient features that distinguish it from other countries and nations? In Democracy in America, Alexis de Tocqueville gave a resounding affirmation to the need for a specific identity. He wrote that a corporate entity remains what it is as long as it operates by the principles upon which it was founded. When it changes those principles, it becomes something entirely different, and the success it had, based on its original formula, becomes uncertain and imperiled. It atrophies and declines. He spoke not against periodic tinkering but warned against fundamental transformation.

According to the wise and prescient de Tocqueville, we define an entity by its original principles and the values that created its success. These are the seeds that animate it and supply its people with special spirit. What, then, is America&rsquos identity?

Some say it lies in our Constitution and Bill of Rights, which delineate the liberties that enshrine our peoplehood and, on a functional level, make possible a daily life open to achievement, aspirations, and human potential. Our way of life and the blessings that have come to us depend on everyone living within this Constitutional framework and by precluding its replacement or abridgement with another set of laws claiming to be a &ldquohigher morality&rdquo or temporarily more important, or by enacting waivers or special accommodation in the name of multiculturalism.

There are those today wishing to sideline the Constitution and our historic way of life by invalidating the men, and thus the ideas, behind it. Using charges of racism as the singular and only important lens in which to judge a person&rsquos value, they nullify the totality, the overwhelming contributions, and extraordinary sacrifices of great men and women of a different era. Meanwhile, they grant themselves unassailable superiority and rigid final judgment simply because of their claims to victimhood or for espousing one of the many isms in today&rsquos pantheon for self-righteous virtue signaling. A nation&rsquos historic identity is being replaced by identity politics, culminating frequently in automatic indictment of historical figures simply because their race or moral values are now out of fashion.

There are those in America wishing to define us strictly as a nation of tolerance and inclusivity, this deification resulting often, as in Europe, in tolerating the intolerable and including everyone and everything to the point of endangering those in society not ensconced within rarified and protective gates. They think the best identity is no identity. But this vacuum and void, as witnessed in Europe, allows for other assertive or aggressive identities and mores to creep within and replace, zone by zone for surely, strong and energized identities will replace the mushy identity of No Identity.

Though tolerance is a laudable theme, it is found elsewhere and is not an exclusive element of Americanism. The President was correct in underscoring the importance of Western civilization and how it connects and ties America and Europe. But America moved Western civilization beyond its previous European contours. It fashioned something more grand, a majestic idea, something that not only preceded the Constitution, but from the time of Plymouth Rock distinguished America from other Western polities, unfolding into the American civilization. It is the Judeo-Christian ethos.

Though its roots began in a religious and idealistic outlook, this ethos shortly developed into a civic attitude and philosophy, shaping the themes and civic perspective that were America&rsquos foundation and key to our freedom and prosperity. It supplies a set of moral and philosophic principles regarding economic, social, personal, and political life. Among its distinguishing features are: personal responsibility, liberty, seeing man as an individual, a work ethic, rights from God, meritocracy, rights to property and how one makes his living, and freedom of religion and conscience. Together with these principles were the uniquely American ideals of fair play, rugged individualism, innovation, volunteerism, speaking one&rsquos mind, and demarcating between right and wrong.

America is much more than a land mass between the Atlantic and the Pacific. It is more than just a country. It is a nation a nation with an exceptional identity born in a transcendent idea. The Judeo-Christian ethos made us singular among the nations.

The civic Judeo-Christian ethos does not demand adherence to the details of religion or to a particular form of worship or religious creed, nor loyalty to a particular religion. The ethos is open to all, just as is Western civilization. That its founders and ancestors were mostly white is not a structural roadblock to all sharing in its outlook, except in the mind of racialists eager to impute racism in anything distinctive or weaponize against those with whom they disagree.

Transnationalists determined to weaken and denude America know their route to victory lies in condemning the Judeo-Christian ethic which has provided America with its identity and life breath and those at war with Judeo-Christianism know that in bringing down America the Judeo-Christian outlook will have lost its most vital fortress.

The Judeo-Christian ethos is an American treasure, a morality, to be defended and preserved, a gift and legacy to pass on to future generations.

Rabbi Aryeh Spero is author of Push Back: Reclaiming our American Judeo-Christian Spirit (Evergreen) and president of Caucus for America.


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