CONNECTING PEOPLE TO IDEAS AND TO EACH OTHER
CONNECTING PEOPLE TO IDEAS AND TO EACH OTHER

Pledging Allegiance to Our Different—and Shared—Ideals of Citizenship

Even in Times of Bitter Partisanship, Americans Can Unite Around Common Beliefs and Goals

Citizenship in the United States is distinguished by how many different and contradictory abilities and actions it requires of citizens, said panelists at a Smithsonian/Zócalo “What It Means to Be American” event. The evening’s discussion, which took up the question, “Do We Still Know How to Be Good Citizens?” unfolded before a large audience at the Museum of Fine Arts in Houston. “We are at our best as citizens when we are being critical,” said one panelist, Jennifer Mercieca, a Texas A&M University historian of American political rhetoric. And that’s an old idea, she added, citing the early American thinker John Dickinson’s Letters from a Farmer in Pennsylvania, which were published in the late 1760s. Mercieca drew particular attention to a point Dickinson raised about the necessity for citizens to be vigilant in defense of their own freedom: “Ought not …