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Activity 3

Essential Questions

How do citizens protect their own rights by actively protecting the rights of others?


Our government has evolved from colonial times to be one of the most effective forms of government in the world. We have a written Constitution with a Bill of Rights to guarantee our basic rights. We have a tradition of electing officials who for the most part are responsive to the people and make laws with our welfare in mind. However, this is still not good enough. If we want to truly protect our rights and welfare, it is the people who must respond. An effective government must have a people willing to participate in government and willing to protect the rights of others while protecting their own rights. Throughout our history, we have developed the idea that we have certain responsibilities to fulfill to our country and to the rest of the world.

Instructional Strategies

Strategy 1

Role-Play Activity

Create a bulletin board for this activity with the title, “With Rights Come Responsibility.” Include four headings for your bulletin board, which the students will eventually fill in with pictures, cartoons, quotes, or articles from newspapers or magazines. Your headings are:

  • Responsibilities to yourself
  • Responsibilities to your family
  • Responsibilities to your community, state, and nation

Divide the class into work groups and assign one of the above topics to each of the groups. Ask them to brainstorm for 20 minutes and list as many responsibilities as they can for their assigned category. Ask the groups to then share with another group with the same category and to add to their list from this group discussion. Tell them to begin looking for pictures, cartoons, quotes, or articles from newspapers or magazines to contribute to the bulletin board to illustrate the items on their list. Discuss the concept of “responsibility” in all three contexts. Put discussion question #1 on a transparency and ask students to think about it, write about it, and discuss it in class.

Ask a student to role play the following situation with you. Write out the script so that the student can read his/her part of a family member and you play the part of the parent.

Printable Student View

Role Play

Twelve-year-old boy: Dad/Mom, I was thinking that maybe I am old enough to go to the concert at the Civic Center tonight. What do you think?

Dad/Mom: Well, I’m not sure it is a question of age, isn’t it more a question of what you have learned as you have been growing up?

Twelve-year-old boy: What do you mean? All I am asking is can I go or not? What else is there to talk about?

Dad/Mom: Well, in that case I have good news for you and bad news for you. The good news is that we can talk about your right to do some things on your own with your friends without me going with you.

Twelve-year-old boy: Wow, thanks! But, that doesn’t mean I can go does it? What is the bad news?

Dad/Mom: The bad news, which also can be “good news,” is that for every right there is a responsibility. What do you think your responsibilities should be if we agree to let you go to the concert?

Check for Understanding

Printable Student View
  • In the role-play, what do you think the boy’s responsibilities should be?
  • Do you agree that for every right there is a responsibility?
  • Do you think the founders of our country might have also felt that with rights come responsibilities?
  • How has our idea of responsibility evolved as our government was formed and as our Constitution became a living document, guiding the behavior of people living in our country?

Strategy 2

Cooperative Groups

Use cooperative groups to extend the discussion: “What responsibilities come with each of the following rights?”

Group 1: Freedom of the Press

Group 2: Freedom of Religion

Group 3: Freedom of Speech

Group 4: Freedom to Assemble

Printable Student View

Focus Questions for the groups:

  1. What does each of these freedoms allow you to do?
  2. What are some of the limits of your freedom for each of these rights?
  3. What responsibility do you have for protecting the right of others to practice this freedom?

Check for Understanding

  • How do citizens protect their own rights by actively protecting the rights of others? Think about the discussion for one of the freedoms listed above and use this discussion as an example to support your answer.

Strategy 3

Follow up Current Events Activity

Read the following and decide what implications this has for the United States.

Printable Student View

April 28 Baghdad meeting
“advances the national dialogue among Iraqis”
April 29, 2003State Department Spokesman Richard Boucher told the news media on April 28 that the choice of a new government in Iraq “belongs to the Iraqi people.” He was speaking at the State Department daily briefing.Boucher said over 250 Iraqi representatives, from various levels of Iraqi society and ethnic groups, from inside Iraq and from the expatriate and opposition communities, convened in Baghdad “to advance the national dialogue among Iraqis regarding composition of an Iraqi interim authority.”

Also at the Baghdad meeting were U.S. Presidential Envoy Zalmay Khalilzad, Office of Reconstruction Director Jay Garner, and Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs Ryan Crocker.

The Baghdad meeting builds upon the historic April 15 meeting held near Nasiriya. “That was the first of several meetings designed to provide Iraqis their own forum to discuss their visions for the future, participation in the Iraqi interim authority, and how best to chart a course towards democratic government,” Boucher said.

The U.S. expects that the interim authority that results from this process will be broad-based, and fully representative, Boucher said, including members from all of Iraq’s ethnic groups, regions and the diaspora.

Use the Internet to follow the role of the United States in nation building in Iraq? Some elements of nation building to examine are:

  • Training of army
  • Writing a constitution
  • Creating a government
  • Repairing infrastructure

Printable Student View

What responsibilities does the United States have as a country for protecting the rights of people in other countries? Think about the following situations as you respond to this question:

  • genocide
  • terrorist attacks on citizens
  • dictator imprisoning opponents
  • government sponsoring ethnic cleansing
  • American tourists being killed
  • government sponsoring fraudulent elections

Think about how the United States might respond:

  • military intervention
  • diplomatic negotiation
  • economic sanctions
  • selective military strikes against the government
  • cooperating with groups trying to change the government
  • refusal to recognize the legality of the government
  • educating citizens of tyrannical governments in the process of democracy

Group Discussion Question: Which of these actions may be the most effective?


Responsibility of
the United States






Updated December 31, 2019 10:34am