I’ve been helping a young Vietnamese woman prepare for the citizenship test she hopes to take at the end of the year. Besides working on her basic English skills, she also needs to master the civics portion of the test. We have some study materials from the government that I go over with her every week. We read a couple of pages at a time and then discuss them. Last week we read about the United States being a representative democracy and what that means. I told her that our elected officials represent our wants and wishes, and if they don’t speak for us the way we want them to, then we can vote for someone else during the next election. I also told her that the only way for our representatives to speak accurately for us is to let them know how we feel about issues through letters and emails. Otherwise, our representatives will listen to lobbyists.
I was caught up short. Here I was giving a civics lesson to this immigrant who wants desperately to become a citizen when what I really needed was a civics lesson for myself, someone whose family has been in this land since before the Revolution. When was the last time I let my representatives know my views? I talked it over with my husband and he was as convicted as I was. Thanks to teaching civics to my young friend, I hope to become a better citizen myself.