Strong citizens are not created overnight. It requires focus, patience, and – true to the lifelong nature of the work – repetition. Above all, that last one may be the most important element to fortifying our democracy: To claim, exert, and spread civic power, you don’t need to master everything at once, you just need to repeat, one at a time, until you’ve gotten the hang of it.
We know that’s easier said than done, of course. Regularly lifting up the tenets of strong citizenship can be a challenge in a busy world with so many distractions. So we’ve broken down the pillars of strong citizenship into four easier-to-lift categories of Respect, Engagement, Practice, and Support. Hey, look at that! Together, they form a tidy acronym: REPS.
Let’s take a few, shall we?
Others. In your words and actions, understand and acknowledge others’ positive qualities and behaviors, regardless of whether you agree with all of their choices or worldviews. Maintain an optimistic view of how others are living their lives and the impact they make on the world. Give grace. We’re all in this together.
Laws and regulations. Obey the laws of our state, nation, and community. Respect traffic laws, personal rights, property rights, and regulations that serve the well-being and safety of your community.
Public spaces. Help keep public areas clean and well-maintained. Dispose of trash properly, follow rules for public spaces, and leave no trace when you depart. Respecting our shared spaces is a potent way to set positive community standards.
The environment. Be mindful of your environmental impact. Practice sustainable behaviors such as recycling, conserving energy and water, and reducing waste.
With and within your community. Contribute your time, talent, and treasure to local charities, nonprofits, and community projects. Volunteering is an effective way for you to support those in need and to strengthen your community at the same time.
With local businesses. Shop regularly at your town’s or city’s businesses to strengthen your community’s economy and contribute to a larger sense of belonging for everyone. Partner with local businesses on community issues and projects whenever possible.
With our democratic processes. Vote in every election and take part in various civic activities. Attend community gatherings, town halls, and public forums. Be a poll worker. Voice your opinions and contribute to discussions that are important to your community.
With local and national happenings. Stay updated on local and global news, and inform yourself about the issues that affect your community, nation, and world. Being well-informed enables you to make informed decisions and take part in meaningful discussions. Vet, verify, and share important news within your networks. Write letters to the editor.
Tolerance. Embrace diversity and treat all individuals with respect, regardless of background, belief, or identity. Avoid prejudice, discrimination, and hate speech.
Empathy. Be empathetic toward others and practice acts of kindness. Small gestures can make a difference in another person’s day and foster community.
Neighborliness. Get to know your neighbors and help them out when they need it – and ask them for help when you do. Attend neighborhood association meetings. Host a block party. Be a part of strengthening democracy on a block-by-block basis.
Community progress. Join in improvement projects like neighborhood cleanups, beautification initiatives, and strategies that enhance the quality of life for all. Seek out partners to can help you make transformative change.
Of course, the actions above are not the only daily repetitions you can take to reach the rank of Super-Strong Citizen. If what we’ve shared here appears to be daunting or too heavy of a lift all at once, it’s OK to focus on one or two and just get started.
Finally, don’t be surprised if you encounter pushback at some point. Believe it or not, this is normal. Remember: Like weightlifting, strong citizenship requires some type of resistance to get the results we’re looking for. That should serve as motivation to keep on going – one rep at a time.