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Perspective: Virtue and Democracy

My question today is: do people of the United States possess sufficient virtue to be self-governing?

At the time of America’s founding the framers of our nation defined virtue to be public-mindedness, the ability to put the common good before self-interest.

The U.S National Archives reports that in Revolutionary-era writings the word “virtue” appears about six thousand times. That’s more than the word “freedom”.

A democratic republic depends on the people being able to be self-governed. And this self-governance depends upon individual and collective virtue.

Jefferson wrote, “No government can continue good but under the control of the people, and their minds (must be) in the habits of virtue.”

What about today?

In order to maintain a vibrant democracy, we must be able to self-regulate our behaviors, ambitions, and passions. To do this we must return to valuing the virtue of common good over individual gain.

This has been our continual struggle as a nation since our beginning. This is why our dream of a democratic nation was an ideal from the start. An ideal that is left up to each generation to strive for.

Virtue encompasses goodwill, tolerance, kindness, respect, honor, and honesty. These are all characteristics each individual is capable of, and each must strive to be so. For our collective destiny lies within the ability of individuals seeking virtue in their daily actions.

I’m Dan Kenney, and this is my perspective.

Dan Kenney is a retired elementary school teacher and the founder of DeKalb County Community Gardens. He's also a published poet and writer.