Responsible citizens must be aware of the issues that impact their communities. Awareness doesn’t happen through osmosis but through effort. From paying attention to local and national news, to asking friends about local happenings, awareness entails proactivity to learn about the issues facing other people.
It’s relatively easy to address issues that only affect oneself, but it’s much more difficult to take ownership of issues that seemingly only affect others. This is where empathy comes in. The innovative non-profit Ashoka dedicates an entire program to teaching empathy, because it knows that empathy is a necessary precursor to action. Empathetic people intellectually commit to “a day in someone else’s shoes” and in so doing recognize the importance of standing up for others.
Empathy that leads to action is a form of enlightened selflessness. All of our empathic feelings and knowledge mean nothing until we willfully pursue action; therefore, responsible citizens are people who translate intellectual responsibility into action, by moving beyond the realm of self and pursuing the greater good with and through other people.
Responsible citizens often champion a cause or multiple causes. Without awareness and empathy, great leaders like Lincoln, MLK, and Gandhi would never have been driven to act. And without action, the greatest citizens in human history would be unknown to us, the possibilities of their impact relegated to mere thoughts in their heads.
Awareness + Empathy + Action = Responsible Citizenship
– Josh Simpson, TCU Student