Last week we announced that the 18th annual Civitas Awards will be presented later in June. Without a big celebratory event, this year’s awards will look and feel a little different. What about 2020 hasn’t been a little different, right? Keep your eyes peeled for more info throughout the month.

“Civitas” is more than just a weighty sounding name for an award program; the term has important meaning. During the Roman Republic, Civitas were the people united by law and responsible for the common good. Civitas essentially means citizens.

With the Civitas Awards, we honor those who have led by example by fulfilling the duties as citizens in our community. What are those duties exactly?

The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service lists nine specific responsibilities of citizenship. A few, like paying taxes and serving on a jury, are required by law. Some like “participate in the democratic process” are straightforward.  You can exercise your duty to be an informed voter in today’s primary elections. But several are open to interpretation.

For example, citizens are responsible to “stay informed of the issues affecting their community.” Is reading local news enough, or are we compelled to explore the source of a story, engage our network, and learn for ourselves?

How about the citizenship obligation to “respect the rights, beliefs, and opinions of others”? Is it enough to tolerate a neighbor with a different perspective, or must we also challenge the understanding and assumptions that shape our own opinion?

In the shadow of pandemic response, economic hardship, and public demonstrations; this is an interesting moment in American history to reflect on the duties of citizenship. I’m certainly questioning whether or not I’m meeting the obligation.