Lesson 11: What Are Our Rights and Responsibilities in Our Democracy?


Benjamin Franklin (1706-1790)  was one of the most famous men who helped begin our nation. He was a philosopher. He was also an inventor, scientist, diplomat, and publisher. He helped write the Declaration of Independence. He also helped write the Constitution.

Framers of the Constitution  The Framers are the fifty-five men who met in Philadelphia in 1787 and wrote the Constitution.

freedom of belief  This is the right to believe or not believe anything you wish.

freedom of expression  This is the right to express your thoughts and opinions. For example, you can express yourself in words, in writing, and by gestures. You can also express yourself using different art forms, such as drawings and paintings; using symbols, like pins and colored arm bands; and joining with others in demonstrations.

right to a fair hearing  This is a group of rights that protect you from being treated unfairly if your government is going to make a decision that might affect you. For example, suppose someone accuses you of breaking a law. The following are some of the rights you have.
  • You have a right to have someone who is not biased against you make a decision for or against you. This would usually be done by a judge or a jury.
  • You have the right to know what you are accused of doing.
  • You have the right to a lawyer to help you answer the charges against you.
  • You have a right to have anyone who has accused you of breaking a law tell their story in front of an unbiased judge and jury.
  • You have the right to have your lawyer make people speaking against you answer questions about their complaint about you.
  • Your lawyer can also question people who speak in your favor.
  • You have many other rights to make sure that you are given a fair hearing and not treated unfairly by your government.

right to ask your government to make things better  People have the right to ask their government to help make their lives better. For example, they can ask government to be sure they have clean air to breathe or clean water to drink.

right to equal opportunity  This is the right of all American citizens to have the same opportunities others have to do certain things. For example, all children have the right to go to public schools. All people have an equal opportunity to try to get a job they want. They have an equal opportunity to take part in elections. They also have the right to not be discriminated against unfairly.

right to run for public office  This is the right to try to get elected to a position in government. The position can often be in any branch of government. For example, if you are old enough, you can try to get elected to Congress or other positions in government.

right to vote  The power of the president to stop a bill passed by Congress from becoming a law.