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Lesson 34: What Is the Importance of Civic Engagement to American Constitutional Democracy?

Lesson Purpose

America's founding principles assume the active involvement of its people in civic life. Popular sovereignty, for example, means that the people have ultimate governing authority, which carries with it the responsibility to exercise that authority knowledgeably to balance individual interests and the common good. Protection of individual rights requires people to be guardians of their own rights and to be willing to defend the rights of others.

This lesson describes ways that Americans can participate in civic life to help achieve the ideals they have set for themselves and their nation, ideals that were examined in Units One and Two. It explains how civic engagement can advance both self-interest and the common good. It also discusses issues related to voting and voter turnout.

When you have finished this lesson, you should be able to explain why Americans need to be engaged in civic affairs. You also should be able to identify opportunities for civic engagement through voluntary associations and nongovernmental organizations and participation in local, state, and national politics. Finally, you should be able to evaluate, take, and defend positions on challenges associated with voting and other forms of participation in civic life in the United States.