John D. Rockefeller said, “I believe that every right implies a responsibility; every opportunity, an obligation; every possession, a duty.” His philosophy eloquently summarizes how great it is to be an American, but also how much work it takes to keep our country great. It is only because of brave, sure-minded, righteous people that we enjoy the freedom and justice that characterizes America.
The Constitution is the most important American document in terms of providing the citizens with ways to be involved in the government and influence officials on what they consider fair and right. As Justice Felix Frankfurter said, “the history of liberty is largely the history of the observance of procedural safeguards.” The Constitution developed those procedural safeguards, such as the terms for “a speedy and public trial” and the proper limits on governmental power, which protect citizens from misguided officials misinterpreting and construing those rights and liberties so crucial to American life. It is the peoples’ responsibility to take advantage of the safeguards and processes defined in the Constitution which allow them control what the government decides is in their best interests. We are obligated, by the fact that we exercise the freedoms and protections defined in the Constitution, and the Bill of Rights in particular, to bring to the attention of the Court, the interpreter and protector of our rights, the situations in our communities which we feel violate our rights promised by the Constitution.
John Serrano was one such American who was willing to take on the responsibility of convincing the courts to intervene in his community and communities like his to correct an injustice he felt was denying his children their right to the American experience. Serrano filed a lawsuit against the California state treasurer because he noticed and was unsettled by the fact that the system of financing public schools in California created unequal opportunities depending on where you lived. The schools in the wealthier neighborhoods were better funded than those in the poorer neighborhoods because most financing for public schools comes from property taxes. Serrano was able to convince the California Supreme Court to take action to end the educational discrimination of children in public schools, and the changes in the way schools were financed in California led to changes in public school systems all across America. It is because of responsible people like John Serrano, who fight single-handedly against injustices that affect us all, that America will remain a free and just place.
Although not all of us are as dedicated and committed as John Serrano, there are still things that we can all do to fulfill our responsibility to our fellow citizens and our country. I am only seventeen and there is nothing in my carefree and young life that I find unjust or encroaching upon my liberties. I am confident, though, in the effectiveness and willingness of our government to deal with the issues citizens present that in the future, I will not hesitate to approach the government about any occurrences in my community, that might affect communities across the country, which I discover to contradict my perception of the freedoms promised by the Bill of Rights. All citizens should follow John Serrano's example and accept the responsibility for ensuring our own liberties. We need to learn from the past examples of citizens having the initiative and sense of responsibility to end the injustices being done to them and so that we can start changing our world today.