The Citizenship In The Nation Merit Badge: Your Ultimate Guide In 2020


As an American involved in Scouting, you’ll need to earn your Citizenship in the Nation Merit Badge to reach the rank of Eagle. This badge will teach you what it means to be a good citizen and give you the knowledge and means to create a positive change in your country. Keep reading, because in this post I’ll be walking you through each of the answers needed to earn your the Citizenship in the Nation merit badge!

Being an informed citizen is critical, especially in today’s chaotic political climate. By understanding the foundations of our democracy and being a good citizen in your community, you’ll help instill the Scouting spirit in others and guide our country in the right direction!

Before we get started, if you have other Eagle-required merit badges to earn, I’d recommend checking out my Difficulty Ranking Guide to Every Eagle-required Badge. There, you’ll also find the links to my other merit badge guides, as well as a description and summary of each badge’s requirements. I’m certain this resource will be helpful to scouts on their road to Eagle!

Also, remember that ScoutSmarts should just serve as your starting point for merit badge research. In school, we’re taught not to plagiarize, and the same is true for Scouting worksheets. Answer these questions in your own words, do further research, and I promise you’ll gain much more from every merit badge you earn!

Citizenship in the Nation has an equal mixture of knowledge requirements, research, and activities. For the activities you choose, I’ll also be providing some insights and tips from when I completed this badge. Be warned, there are some tricky requirements and badge will take at least 2 weeks to finish, so be prepared.

If you’re up for the challenge, it’s time to get started. Take a few minutes to thoroughly read and understand the requirements you’ll need to complete. Then, you’ll be ready to begin earning your Citizenship in the Nation merit badge.

What Are The Citizenship In The Nation Merit Badge Requirements?

  1. Explain what citizenship in the nation means and what it takes to be a good citizen of this country. Discuss the rights, duties, and obligations of a responsible and active American citizen.
  2. Do TWO of the following:
    1. Visit a place that is listed as a National Historic Landmark or that is on the National Register of Historic Places. Tell your counselor what you learned about the landmark or site and what you found interesting about it.
    2. Tour your state capitol building or the U.S. Capitol. Tell your counselor what you learned about the capitol, its function, and the history.
    3. Tour a federal facility. Explain to your counselor what you saw there and what you learned about its function in the local community and how it serves this nation.
    4. Choose a national monument that interests you. Using books, brochures, the Internet (with your parent’s permission), and other resources, find out more about the monument. Tell your counselor what you learned, and explain why the monument is important to this country’s citizens.
  3. Watch the national evening news five days in a row OR read the front page of a major daily newspaper five days in a row. Discuss the national issues you learned about with your counselor. Choose one of the issues and explain how it affects you and your family.
  4. Discuss each of the following documents with your counselor. Tell your counselor how you feel life in the United States might be different without each one.
    1. Declaration of Independence
    2. Preamble to the Constitution
    3. The Constitution
    4. Bill of Rights
    5. Amendments to the Constitution
  5. List the six functions of government as noted in the preamble to the Constitution. Discuss with your counselor how these functions affect your family and local community.
  6. With your counselor’s approval, choose a speech of national historical importance. Find out about the author, and tell your counselor about the person who gave the speech. Explain the importance of the speech at the time it was given, and tell how it applies to American citizens today. Choose a sentence or two from the speech that has significant meaning to you, and tell your counselor why.
  7. Name the three branches of our federal government and explain to your counselor their functions. Explain how citizens are involved in each branch. For each branch of government, explain the importance of the system of checks and balances.
  8. Name your two senators and the member of Congress from your congressional district. Write a letter about a national issue and send it to one of these elected officials, sharing your view with him or her. Show your letter and any response you receive to your counselor.

1. Explain what citizenship in the nation means and what it takes to be a good citizen of this country. Discuss the rights, duties, and obligations of a responsible and active American citizen.

Citizenship gives an individual the rights, duties, and legal responsibilities associated with belonging to a nation. In your case, you’re likely a citizen of the United States and are afforded certain privileges like protection under our government and the ability to vote once you’ve reached the age of 18.

However, not everyone can be an American citizen. There are 4 primary ways that a person can gain United States citizenship.

  • Being born on US soil
  • Being born of parents who are US citizens
  • Applying for US citizenship and completing a lengthy immigration process (This is called becoming a naturalized citizen)
  • Through the completed naturalization of parents if a child is under 18 at the time.

American citizenship is not available for everyone and is actually one of the most sought-after forms of citizenship in the world. In fact, usually, only around 680,000 immigrants are naturalized each year out of a pool of over 6 million applicants. That means that only 10% of people who try to become US citizens actually do!

What Does It Mean To Be a Good Citizen?

At a minimum, a good citizen is one who follows all of a nation’s laws and gives back to their country by paying taxes. Acting as a constructive member of society, you’ll help to fuel our government’s activities and make your community a better place to live in.

Within the US, another measure of a good citizen is their participation in our democracy. By following the news and making an effort to understand our national issues, you’ll become informed and make more educated decisions when voting. In turn, this will help to weed out corruption and form a more honest government.

Voting in elections is just one of the duties of an active US citizen. Every citizen has non-negotiable expectations that are placed on them at birth or when they become naturalized. Some of your duties as a US citizen include:

  • Making yourself aware of all federal, state, and local laws.
  • Following all laws and regulations in good faith.
  • If you witness any crimes, reporting what you’ve seen to the authorities.
  • Attending jury duty if you are called upon.
  • Paying all of your taxes honestly and in a timely manner.
  • Fighting in the military and defending your country, if necessary.
  • Voting in local, state, and federal elections to strengthen our democracy.

The Bill of Rights outlines many of your basic freedoms as an American citizen (more on this later). As a US citizen, your main rights include:

  • The right to vote (if age 18 or older).
  • Freedom of speech, religion, and expression.
  • The right to a quick, fair trial by jury.
  • Freedom to apply for employment and work within the country.
  • The ability to run for a political office.
  • The right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

Basically, the goal of US law is to provide citizens with the right to do or believe almost anything they want, as long as it doesn’t harm anyone else. To put it more elegantly, “Your right to swing your arms ends just where another person’s nose begins. (the identity of the speaker is disputed).

To be a good citizen, you should fulfill more than just your duties. You should also make an effort to improve your community and country. Overall, the main principles that should guide your actions, as an active citizen of the USA, include:

  • Being good to your fellow citizens. Try to follow the Scout Oath and Scout Law at all times.
  • Staying informed and making an effort to participate in our democracy.
  • Trying to be active in your community.
  • Respecting everyone’s rights to voice their own opinions. Even if those opinions differ from your own.
  • Calling out any injustices and speaking up for the less fortunate.
  • Donating or volunteering to give back to your community.
2. Do TWO of the following:
  1. Visit a place that is listed as a National Historic Landmark or that is on the National Register of Historic Places. Tell your counselor what you learned about the landmark or site and what you found interesting about it.
  2. Tour your state capitol building or the U.S. Capitol. Tell your counselor what you learned about the capitol, its function, and the history.
  3. Tour a federal facility. Explain to your counselor what you saw there and what you learned about its function in the local community and how it serves this nation.
  4. Choose a national monument that interests you. Using books, brochures, the Internet (with your parent’s permission), and other resources, find out more about the monument. Tell your counselor what you learned, and explain why the monument is important to this country’s citizens.

During the time I was working on Citizenship in the Nation, I chose to complete options 1 and 4. It was a really cool experience to visit a historic landmark in my state, and I think you’ll enjoy visiting a landmark as well! Afterward, it was a quick process to finish researching my chosen national monument.

When working on this requirement, I’d recommend you complete requirement 4 and choose some sort of national facility to tour. However, if you have the opportunity to visit two locations with your troop, that’d be a fun time too. In the section, I’m going to be guiding you through option 4 and giving you advice on how best to research the national monument of your choosing.

Step 1: Visit the list of national monuments and select a monument to research. For this example, I’ll be showing you my research on the Statue of Liberty.

Step 2: Note the important details, then write out a list of facts about your monument. This can include the date of creation, location of the monument, number of visitors per year, and a brief description of its history. Take the time to write this information down to later discuss with your counselor.

Example of my list after step 2:

  • Name: Statue of Liberty
  • Date established as a national monument: October 15, 1924
  • Location: New York/New Jersey
  • Description: Approximately 151 feet (46 m) tall, the Statue of Liberty commemorates the signing of the United States Declaration of Independence and is a gesture of friendship from France to the U.S. It receives over 4 million visitors annually.

Step 3: Click your location’s name to visit the full article on your monument. Skim through the information and pick out some interesting details. Note down 3 fun facts from the article to also share with your counselor.

Additions to my list after step 3:

  • Fun fact 1: Designed by French sculptor Frédéric Auguste Bartholdi and its metal framework was built by Gustave Eiffel (designer of the Eiffel Tower.
  • Fun fact 2: The Statue Of Liberty was dedicated (officially opened) on October 28, 1886. It was also renovated and rededicated from 1982-2000.
  • Fun Fact 3: The robed female depicted by the statue represents Libertas, the Roman goddess of freedom.

Step 4: Click one of the government webpage citations at the bottom of the article to find a reputable website to use in your sources. Take 1 fact from that website to also add to your list.

Additions to my list after step 4:

  • Fact 4: You are able to visit the crown and pedestal of the Statue of Liberty, but availability is limited and must be reserved beforehand. Citation: National Parks Service (nps.gov).

With these 4 steps, you should have more than enough information and reputable sources to speak with your counselor. Be sure to also highlight why your chosen monument should be considered important to our country’s citizens. Additionally, if you’d like to go the extra mile, you can also visit your school or local library to find a book on your national monument.

I know that for some of you this sort of research method may seem obvious, but to those of you who aren’t using it, you really should. Not only will outlining your findings and identifying credible sources in page citations save you time in researching merit badge answers, it’ll also make your school assignments easier.

3. Watch the national evening news five days in a row OR read the front page of a major daily newspaper five days in a row. Discuss the national issues you learned about with your counselor. Choose one of the issues and explain how it affects you and your family.

Surprisingly, I found this to be one of the most fun requirements of this badge. If your parents or any of your siblings watch the news, just join them for a few days. Ask them how they think the issues you’re hearing about would affect your family. It’ll make for a great conversational topic, and you’ll be able to learn more about how they see the world.

This requirement got me to watch the news with my Dad for the first time and was the start of a great ritual. Even after finishing the merit badge, I’d still join him to watch the evening news at least once or twice a week. 

If you aren’t able to watch the news on TV, newspapers or even news websites would also be fine. It doesn’t take too long to get a basic idea of some of the current national issues that are taking place. Once you have a few topics in mind, be sure to consider how these ongoing events might impact you and your family.

4. Discuss each of the following documents with your counselor. Tell your counselor how you feel life in the United States might be different without each one.
  • The Declaration of Independence
  • The Preamble to the Constitution
  • The Constitution
  • The Bill of Rights
  • Amendments to the Constitution

The Declaration of Independence

The Declaration of Independence was a formal statement, drafted by our nation’s founding fathers, that asserted the separation of American colonies from the rule of the English crown. From this document, ratified on July 4, 1776, we established ourselves as an independent nation, governed by the people, for the people.

In the famous declaration, the line, “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness” is especially important. This sentence promises to oppose tyranny and helped to guide our country on the right path.

If Thomas Jefferson did not write the Declaration of Independence, we might still be a part of England today. Democracies might be much rarer, or may not even exist at all. In any case, there is little chance we would enjoy the same freedoms and rights as we currently do.

The Preamble to the Constitution

The Preamble to the Constitution appears above the Constitution and serves to introduce the Constitution’s purpose, guiding principles, and intended values. Scholars believe that the preamble represents the founding father’s intentions of what the Constitution represents, as well as what they hoped it would achieve.

Since it’s a short passage, take a second to read the entire Preamble to the Constitution:

We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.

The main messages in the preamble, in order, are ensuring justice, peace of mind, safety, prosperity to all, and continued freedom for ourselves and our children. The preamble helps us to better understand and interpret the Constitution. Without it, we might mistakenly focus on the wrong aspects of the Constitution.

The Constitution

The Constitution is the supreme law of the United States of America. This means that it takes priority over all other federal, state, and local laws. The Constitution essentially serves as a guide to the philosophy and principles that grant citizens of the US certain rights and freedoms.

There are seven articles that make up the United States Constitution. These articles outline our country‘s political, judicial, and civil structure. The Constitution creates a system and process where no part of the government can become too powerful. 

The goal of the constitution is to stop dictators and monarchs from coming to power. Without the Constitution, we’d likely not have been able to maintain a stable government for over 200 years. However, the constitution can be changed to better guide justice according to the times (these changes are called amendments).

The Bill of Rights

The Bill of Rights consists of the first 10 amendments to the US Constitution. Simply put, these amendments guarantee the personal rights of US citizens and limit the abuse of government power. In essence, the first 10 amendments making up the Bill of Rights are:

  1. Freedom of religion, speech, and the press.
  2. The right to keep and bear firearms.
  3. Freedom to refuse housing soldiers in your home.
  4. Protection from searches and confiscation of property without a warrant.
  5. Protection from self-incrimination, being tried twice for the same crime, and a guarantee to a fair trial by jury. An individual will also not be deprived of life, liberty, or property without due legal process and will be compensated for any unjust losses they might suffer.
  6. The right to a jury, lawyer, and speedy trial.
  7. Guarantees the right to a jury trial in civil cases. Prevents courts from overturning the prior verdict.
  8. Prohibits ‘cruel and unusual punishments,‘ as well as excessive fines or bail costs.
  9. If some rights are not mentioned in the constitution, they cannot take away from rights held by the people.
  10. Powers not defined in the Constitution are delegated to the states or the people.

While the Constitution serves as a blueprint for the US government, the Bill of Rights secures the liberties of its citizens. Without the Bill of Rights, the government might exert too much power over its citizens and infringe on their freedom. By immediately adding these amendments to the constitution, our founding fathers helped to preserve the rights of the people for generations to come.

Amendments to the Constitution

Including the Bill of Rights, the US Constitution has seen a total of 27 amendments. These amendments act as clauses added to the constitution that keep our government up-to-date with the changing times.

The abolition of slavery and the right for women to vote are included in the list of amendments that have been added throughout our country’s history. Currently, because it takes two-thirds support from both the House and Senate to approve a new amendment, the most recent amendment was added almost 30 years ago on May 5, 1992.

Without amending the US Constitution, we wouldn’t have been able to make changes to our laws and become a more tolerant nation. Amendments are a great way to make positive changes over time, but require unity and cooperation within our government.

5. List the six functions of government as noted in the preamble to the Constitution. Discuss with your counselor how these functions affect your family and local community.

To refresh your memory on what we covered earlier, the Preamble to the constitution introduces the Constitution’s purpose, guiding principles, and values. The six functions of government as noted in the Preamble are as follows:

  1. We the people, in order to form a more perfect union: As a nation, we’re open to continual improvement. We’ll continue to make amendments to our constitution in order to improve the unity of our country and the lives of its people.
  2. Establish justice: We will handle disagreements in a fair and just manner. Our laws will be in the interests of all citizens.
  3. Ensure Domestic Tranquility: We’ll make the United States a safe country to live within. Citizens will be protected, and have no need to fear for their lives.
  4. Provide for the Common Defense: Our nation will uphold a strong military to defend against foreign attacks. There will be no need to fear the possibility of an invading nation.
  5. Promote the General Welfare: The United States will use its resources to improve the standard of living for all of its citizens.
  6. Secure the Blessings of Liberty to Ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America: These rights and freedoms will be secured, not only in the present, but also for your children and future generations as well.

Each of the functions of the Preamble helps to protect US citizens. By ensuring an acceptable standard of living and peace of mind from outside threats, the Preamble to the Constitution helps to create a safe environment for American families and communities.

6. With your counselor’s approval, choose a speech of national historical importance. Find out about the author, and tell your counselor about the person who gave the speech. Explain the importance of the speech at the time it was given, and tell how it applies to American citizens today. Choose a sentence or two from the speech that has significant meaning to you, and tell your counselor why.

For this requirement, you’ll need to choose a speech of national historic importance to research. You can find a list of significant American historical speeches by clicking the link here. Choose one that you might like. Below, I’ll be using the Gettysburg address as an example of what main points you could cover when reviewing your speech.

Gettysburg Address Example:

Abraham Lincoln gave his famous Gettysburg address on November 19, 1863, during the American Civil War. At the time of his influential speech, Abraham Lincoln was the 16th President of the United States of America.

Lincoln is one of the most widely known US presidents, having fought for the emancipation of all slaves during his time in office. Today, Abraham Lincoln is still well respected and remembered, even having his profile carved into the side of Mount Rushmore.

In his iconic Gettysburg address, Abraham Lincoln commemorated the fallen Union soldiers and reaffirmed America’s national purpose of liberty and equality for all of its inhabitants. 

One of the most remembered and quoted lines from his speech is, “This nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom – and that government of the people, by the people, and for the people, shall not perish from the earth.”

This line still rings true for American citizens today. As a society, we’re always trying to form a more perfect nation, and by creating a government of the people, for the people, our nation will continue to prosper.

The significance of this line is that, even 150 years later, we’ve still been able to maintain our democracy and succeed as a nation. More than that, we’ve combated injustices and passed positive laws, making our country a more free and just place for all of its citizens.

Now that you know all about the Gettysburg address, you might be interested in hearing it for yourself! Check out this quick and awesome video (2:52) of a guy reenacting the iconic speech in public.

7. Name the three branches of our federal government and explain to your counselor their functions. Explain how citizens are involved in each branch. For each branch of government, explain the importance of the system of checks and balances.

Our federal government is divided into three separate divisions called the Legislative, Judicial, and Executive branches. This separation is called a system of checks and balances and is done to limit the power of any one group. In the section below, I’ll be breaking down each of the government branches, individually:

The Legislative Branch

The Legislative branch of government is in charge of creating our nation’s laws. This branch is mainly directed by the US Congress, which is comprised of both the Senate and House of Representatives. As citizens of the US, we elect our fellow citizens as congress members, thereby creating a government of the people.

Congress is also in charge of creating an annual budget, approving proposed laws, and keeping the President’s power in check. By representing the people of the United States and creating just laws, the Legislative branch exists to be the main voice for the citizens of the United States.

The Executive Branch

The Executive Branch is in charge of approving and enforcing our nation’s laws. This branch consists of the President, Vice President, the President’s cabinet, and 15 other departments along with many other staffers.

The President is tasked with appointing Supreme Court Justices for the Judicial branch, conducting diplomacy with other countries, and evaluating laws submitted by the Legislative Branch. To maintain a system of checks and balances, the President can also veto legislation created by Congress. However, Congress can overturn this veto with a 2/3rds majority vote.

The Judicial Branch

The Judicial Branch of government interprets the meaning of laws and judges whether any governmental actions violate the Constitution. This branch consists of our Supreme Court and other federal courts. The US President is in charge of appointing Supreme Court Justices.

The Judicial Branch has the final say in all legal cases that could set a precedent within our country. If there are any questions as to whether the other branches are acting unconstitutionally, the Judicial Branch will be in charge of delivering a verdict.

This system of checks and balances exists to prevent one branch from obtaining too much power. Here are some examples of checks and balances that you can discuss with your merit badge counselor.

  • The President can veto laws proposed by the Legislative branch.
  • The President also holds the power to appoint Supreme court Justices to the Judicial branch.
  • Congress can overturn the President’s veto with a 2/3rd majority vote and also has control over the budget the Executive branch is allowed.
  • Congress also has the power to impeach (start the process to remove) members of both the Executive and Judicial branches.
  • Within the Judicial branch, the Supreme court can declare both proposed laws and presidential actions unconstitutional.
  • Members of the Judicial branch also have no maximum time they’re able to serve.

As citizens today, we’re able to involve ourselves in each branch of government by electing members to Congress, voting for our President, and signing petitions that are reviewed by our courts. Through this complex system of checks and balances, we’ve been able to distribute power evenly throughout the 3 branches of government and keep our nation free.

8. Name your two senators and the member of Congress from your congressional district. Write a letter about a national issue and send it to one of these elected officials, sharing your view with him or her. Show your letter and any response you receive to your counselor.

After following the news for a week and learning about your country‘s history, writing a short message about a national issue should be a breeze for you. Use this website to identify who your two state senators are. Then, click the following link to identify one of the Congress members from your state.

All that’s left to do is to write a short letter to one of these individuals. My letter was about two paragraphs, but yours can be a little shorter or a little longer. Usually, one of their staff will respond to you, but if you’re lucky, your actual representative could get back to you as well!

Conclusion

If you’ve made it to this point in the guide, congratulations! The citizenship merit badges aren’t easy, but will provide you with the skills to better understand the world around you. Now that you’re ready to earn Citizenship in the Nation, you’re one step closer to becoming an Eagle Scout!

If you found this guide helpful, I’ve also written other merit badges walkthroughs, as well as articles helping you to be a better leader in your troop. Check ScoutSmarts often, because I’m constantly uploading new content for scouts like you. Until next time, best of luck on your Scouting journey!

Cole

I'm constantly writing new content for this website because I believe in Scouts like you! Thanks so much for reading, and for making this world a better place. Until next time, I'm wishing you all the best on your journey to Eagle and beyond!

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