A Declaration of Democratic Citizenship

It was a big day for Delores and Joe and their son, Steve who would be graduating from medical school. Rather than caps and gowns, the students wore white coats symbolic of their profession. At the end of the ceremony, the students joined hands and turned to the audience. Speaking as one, they recited a declaration of responsibilities and obligations as medical doctors. The declaration was long and spoken in a cadence that left no doubt of how much they believed in the words they were saying. The fact that the words were spoken from memory added even more meaning to the declaration. There wasn’t a dry eye in the audience.

A week later, Joe and Steve were reviewing the ceremony. Joe said, “I expected you to recite the Hippocratic oath. Isn’t that done anymore?”

“Most medical schools have adopted the practice of having graduates write their own professional promise. I served on the team that drafted the promise we used in the ceremony”, Steve responded. “We borrowed heavily from the declaration used by graduates of the Imperial College School of Medicine.”

Joe was intrigued. As President of his state’s labor federation, he wondered if the labor community could draft a declaration of citizenship that would parallel what his son had taken for his career as a doctor.

Joe got a copy of the declaration and modified it for citizenship rather medical practice. (See Figure 1). What began as a curiosity quickly went viral. The support for the declaration was accepted by those of all political beliefs, who genuinely supported democracy. The declaration became an antidote to those who wanted to eliminate democratic values.

At first, some leaders of political parties, corporations, churches, and other unions were hesitant to accept the declaration. But they were overwhelmed by the support the declaration had throughout their organizations. People were just fed up by divisiveness, and they wanted to declare their interest in returning the country to decency where everyone was respected.

For Joe, the real value of the declaration was when it became a reminder to those in office as they explored options for America’s future. The declaration took on a force that special interest groups could not ignore. The declaration became a hope for America.

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“A nation, as a society, forms a moral person, and every member of it is personally responsible for his society.” – Thomas Jefferson

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