Excential Texts 3
How America Works [for Labor Day]
Hi! I'm George Washington. I was the first president of the United States, and I'll be your guide on this tour of How America Works.
Here are some of the many ways the government connects to your daily life (in no particular order):
MANAGING FORESTSThe U.S. government is a democracy. But wait, what's a democracy? Good question! The word comes from two Greek words, meaning "people" and "authority." In a democracy, we the people are responsible for electing those who will govern us (that's why it's important to vote!).
PROTECTING MONEY IN BANKS
LOOKING AFTER NATURE
WORKING WITH FARMERS
PROMOTING THE ARTS
TESTING DRIVERS AND REGISTERING VEHICLES
OVERSEEING AIR SAFETY
LOOKIN AFTER THE ENVIRONMENT (Wow! Isn't this duck a bit too big? Maybe. But governments must try to balance all interests, and the environment is a very important subject.)
COUNTING THE POPULATION
DELIVERING THE MAIL
PROVIDING FUNDS FOR THE ELDERLY AND DISABLED
WATCHING OUT FOR YOUR HEALTH
SUPPORTING SCIENTIFIC RESEARCH
ENSURING NATIONAL SECURITY
ENSURING SAFE AND CONVENIENT TRANSPORTATION
CLEANING THE STREETS
In other parts of the world, there are different kinds of governments.... For instance, in a constitutional monarchy, such as Great Britain's, the head of the government is a king or queen. Queen Elizabeth II of Britain's reign will last until her death, when the crown will pass to her son, Prince Charles. But, as in the U.S., there are regular elections for political office. The leader of the party that wins the election becomes prime minister and is in charge of running the country. By tradition, the prime minister consults the queen every week. A totalitarian government is one in which the ruling party imposes its ideas on the lives of the people. The leader of this kind of government is called a dictator. No opposition is allowed. Ordinary people have no say in the way the government is run. Adolph Hitler was a dictator in Germany from 1933 to 1945. Life under a totalitarian government is very different from that in the U.S. Every aspect of life is controlled, including what is printed in newspapers and what is shown on TV.
The Pledge of Allegiance
"I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America and to the Republic for which it stands, one nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all."
The pledge was written by Francis Bellamy in 1892. Congress added the words "under God" in 1954.
The flag is flown at half-mast to honor the dead.
On Memorial Day, the flag is traditionally in the lowered position until noon to commemorate U.S. Veterans of war. Then it is raised to the top of the pole again.
How to Display the Flag
There are some very important rules about how to display the flag. People often forget that when you hang the flag on its side like this, on a wall, the blue area with the stars must be on the top left as you face it. Another rule is that the flag should never touch the floor or ground. Oh, and you're not supposed to make it into clothing, either!
Getting Elected: How You Become President
Suppose you want to run for president. What do you do? Here are the steps you'll take on your way to the White House.
1. Travel the country discussing things on people's minds. You might discuss the economy: Do people have enough money? Do they have jobs? You might discuss the environment: Are we polluting the air? Is our water clean? Your ideas about these topics will get you noticed by TV and newspapers.
2. Gather a staff to help you write speeches, arrange TV interviews, research the issues you are discussing on your travels, and seek support from other politicians.
3. Raise money. You'll need a lot! You need a huge amount to compete with all the other candidates. In the 2004 presidential campaign, some candidates are expected to raise $200 million.
4. Make a formal declaration. This lets everyone know that you are officially in the election.
5. Take part in the primaries--and win some!
6. Get your party's nomination at the national convention.
7. Now it's a race to the finish. Be seen everywhere, especially in states where your opponent has a lot of support. And be prepared for tough questions on live TV debates.
8. It's Election Day (the first Tuesday after the first Monday in November). You hope for a landslide (big win), but you must wait until all the votes are counted. If you are the clear winner, you'll be called the president-elect.
9. A new home. You and your family will move into the White House two months after the election, in January.
Note: You may get more votes than your opponent and still not be the winner. How can that be? Here's how: The president is actually chosen by the electoral college. Each state has the same number of electors as it has members of Congress. A state's electors generally cast all of the their votes for the candidate who got the most votes in that state. So even if a candidate wins by just one vote in that state, the candidate is still supposed to get all the state's electoral votes. That's why states with big populations have more influence over an election than smaller states.
Well, I'm safely back home on the $1 bill. Don't forget to say hello whenever you see me! And watch for the new colorful design of the U.S. dollar.
[excerpted from Kids Discover, Vol. 13, #9, Sept 2003]