On the privilege and responsibility of citizenship

Only for the second time do I celebrate today’s Independence Day as an American citizen (albeit from Tinos, Greece). On April 14, 2015, I became a citizen of this country I have loved and lived in for 20+ years. Today’s 4th of July however is particularly special to me, because in the last 3 months I experienced two of the responsibilities that come with citizenship.

For the first time in May, I was called for Jury Duty service by DC District Court. For 11 business days I had to call an automated number, enter my pin, and listen to a recorded message that told me if or not I had to report to court the following day. I never had to. I had to postpone two work trips and was even wary of scheduling calls and meetings locally for fear of having to cancel at the last minute. These 11 days taught me (or perhaps more accurately, reminded me) what a luxury a day that is not over-scheduled is. I had entire hours with no calls or meetings – work, yes, but no scheduled obligations. I made unscheduled phonecalls, caught up on a number of key projects, and made spontaneous plans with friends.

For the first time June, I voted. On a beautiful summer morning I walked a few blocks to a church and was welcomed by a team of well-dressed, smiling, volunteers. I was expecting the voting process to be impersonal and automated; instead it was emotional and involved pen and paper and an envelope that needed to be licked to be sealed. The pride and sense of accomplishment that came with placing that sealed ballot in the ballot box was completely unexpected, and all the more powerful.

Today, as I did last July, I celebrate Independence Day as a citizen of the United States. Today, for the first time, I do so having experienced the privilege and responsibility of citizenship.

Leave a Reply