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What I Really Know About Civic Duty: Three Obligations

The AARP Bulletin's "What I Really Know" column comes from our readers. Each month we solicit short personal essays on a selected topic and post some of our favorites in print and online. Below, reader Logene Williams of Arvada, Colo., shares what she really knows about civic duty.

My dad walked me to school on the first day of kindergarten. As we walked, he talked to me about what a great adventure I was beginning and said:

“Honey, I want you to always remember what I am about to tell you. When you sit down in your chair at the desk today, you have an obligation to three people. Your first obligation is to yourself, to learn everything that you possibly can from your teacher. Your second obligation is to the teacher, that you don’t waste her time and effort by acting up or not trying to learn what she can teach you. And the third obligation is to the child who could be sitting in that chair if you weren’t there, so that you don’t waste an opportunity that child does not have.”

I have carried his words in my heart and mind since that day, more than 56 years ago. They have helped me in every area of my life as I try to figure out daily what my responsibilities are—to myself, to others close to me and to the world at large. Dad has been gone far too long—I lost him early—but his legacy of integrity and love still touch my life every single day.

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