Citizenship

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Citizenship  (1919) 
by Will H. Hays
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I plead for a patriotism in peace as well as in war. Let us have not nearly that patriotism born of extremities which burns in the souls of men only when their country is in danger, but the patriotism of good citizenship in low places and in high places, in season and out of season. Let us have the patriotism which moves men to make their country's welfare their own business, and in prosaic times of peace, interest themselves continually in the politics of their communities. Good government is certain in no other way.

What we need in this country is not less politics, but more attention to politics. There must be two great political parties, and both should be strong and viral. If a political party does not stand for those things which will bear the severest scrutiny, it is not entitled to succeed and it will not endure. Let the political parties determine their acts solely by how they can contribute most to the country's good and let the individual membership give that attention to their party's affairs which is due the only instrument through which all individuals can apply their patriotism. There is no zone of twilight in politics. Right is right and wrong is wrong, and the same strict standard of righteous conduct must obtain as in any private business or professional matter. With our politics entirely on this basis, living our patriotism daily, we will do a citizen's full duty and not until then.

I have no use for the individual who is too busy to take part in politics. He has no just complaint to make. Whatever happens he is riding on another person's ticket. It is passing strange than men have to be urged to exercise the first privilege of a sovereign citizenship — the right to help govern themselves. For this right this nation was founded, for this right the Union was preserved, for this right patriots have labored since the foundation of the republic, and that this right might be for all men everywhere we fought in France and drenched the plains of Europe with our blood.

Unless there is an awakened sense of civic duty, as the glorified result of our experience of fire and blood, we have lost the most important lesson of this war. Hundreds of thousands of men and women arose in the spirit of consecrated service and unselfishly carried the burden of war-works at home and abroad. I urge that this army of patriots now realize that they have a duty in peace as well in war. That the nation needs their continuing devotion, and that they owe this continuing service to their country's welfare. We are the freest government in the world, but our strength rests totally in that patriotism which moves us everyday to discharge the debt we owe this nation by making and keeping conditions right in this country.

The Republican party is the party of the future. It was born of a national necessity and from that hour has been a party of patriotism, with its loyalty measured only by the possibilities. And now with our eyes solely on the country's welfare, we will measure our steps forward by the new needs of the nation, continuing to be the instrument to apply to changing conditions the wisdom of experience and the efficacy of an honest, zealous servant. With a determination for an execution consistent with our record, squaring our performances with our promises, we will proceed to the fulfillment of the party's mission. God helping it shall be accomplished.


This work is in the public domain in the United States because it was published before January 1, 1923.

The author died in 1954, so this work is also in the public domain in countries and areas where the copyright term is the author's life plus 50 years or less. This work may also be in the public domain in countries and areas with longer native copyright terms that apply the rule of the shorter term to foreign works.