Who is a U.S. citizen? Simply put, by the 14th Amendment to the Constitution:
“All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside.”
In these rather tumultuous times, it’s refreshing to have a simple definition of a fundamental fact, by reference, that we can agree on.
Certain rights, likewise defined, are guaranteed by citizenship, among them, the freedom to live and work here, the right to vote, the right to receive federal assistance, the right to due process, the freedom of expression, the freedom to stand for public office and the freedom to leave the country and return.
As citizens in this country, we live in a democracy which is a form of government in which the people have the authority to choose their governing legislators.
It helps, in exercising that authority, if we the voters at the least agree upon some facts in common upon which to base our discussions, our arguments and our voting. As the saying goes, “you may have your own opinions but not your own facts.”
One good place to start with finding how much we agree on facts about our country is the 2008 civics and history test people seeking to become naturalized citizen prepared for and took. There were 100 questions, and to become a U.S. citizen one needed to answer 6 out of 10 questions asked by an examiner from among the 100.
Naturalized citizens of the United States share some common knowledge about our country when they discuss, argue and vote. How much common knowledge about our country do you, as a citizen whether naturalized or born, share with other citizens?
See how many of the questions below you can answer — and write a letter to the editor sharing what you know.
A: Principles of American Democracy
1. What is the supreme law of the land?
2. What does the Constitution do?
3. The idea of self-government is in the first three words of the Constitution. What are these three words?
4. What is an amendment?
5. What do we call the first ten amendments to the Constitution?
6. What is one right or freedom from the First Amendment?
7. How many amendments does the Constitution have?
8. What did the Declaration of Independence do?
9. What are two rights in the Declaration of Independence?
10. What is freedom of religion?
11. What is the economic system in the United States?
12. What is the “rule of law”?
B: System of Government
13. Name one branch or part of the government.
14. What stops one branch of government from becoming too powerful?
15. Who is in charge of the executive branch?
16. Who makes federal laws?
17. What are the two parts of the U.S. Congress?
18. How many U.S. Senators are there?
19. We elect a U.S. Senator for how many years?
20. Who is one of your state’s U.S. Senators now?
21. The House of Representatives has how many voting members?
22. We elect a U.S. Representative for how many years?
23. Name your U.S. Representative.
24. Who does a U.S. Senator represent?
25. Why do some states have more Representatives than other states?
26. We elect a President for how many years?
27. In what month do we vote for President?
28. What is the name of the President of the United States now?
29. What is the name of the Vice President of the United States now?
30. If the President can no longer serve, who becomes President?
31. If both the President and the Vice President can no longer serve, who becomes President?
32. Who is the Commander in Chief of the military?
33. Who signs bills to become laws?
34. Who vetoes bills?
35. What does the President’s Cabinet do?
36. What are two Cabinet-level positions?
37. What does the judicial branch do?
38. What is the highest court in the United States?
39. How many justices are on the Supreme Court?
40. Who is the Chief Justice of the United States now?
41. Under our Constitution, some powers belong to the federal government. What is one
power of the federal government?
42. Under our Constitution, some powers belong to the states. What is one power of the states?
43. Who is the Governor of your state now?
44. What is the capital of your state?
45. What are the two major political parties in the United States?
46. What is the political party of the President now?
47. What is the name of the Speaker of the House of Representatives now?
C: Rights and Responsibilities
48. There are four amendments to the Constitution about who can vote. Describe one of
49. What is one responsibility that is only for United States citizens?
50. Name one right only for United States citizens.
51. What are two rights of everyone living in the United States?
52. What do we show loyalty to when we say the Pledge of Allegiance?
53. What is one promise you make when you become a United States citizen?
54. How old do citizens have to be to vote for President?
55. What are two ways that Americans can participate in their democracy?
56. When is the last day you can send in federal income tax forms?
57. When must all men register for the Selective Service?
A: Colonial Period and Independence
58. What is one reason colonists came to America?
59. Who lived in America before the Europeans arrived?
60. What group of people was taken to America and sold as slaves?
61. Why did the colonists fight the British?
62. Who wrote the Declaration of Independence?
63. When was the Declaration of Independence adopted?
64. There were 13 original states. Name three.
65. What happened at the Constitutional Convention?
66. When was the Constitution written?
67. The Federalist Papers supported the passage of the U.S. Constitution. Name one of the
68. What is one thing Benjamin Franklin is famous for?
69. Who is the “Father of Our Country”?
70. Who was the first President?
71. What territory did the United States buy from France in 1803?
72. Name one war fought by the United States in the 1800s.
73. Name the U.S. war between the North and the South.
74. Name one problem that led to the Civil War.
75. What was one important thing that Abraham Lincoln did?
76. What did the Emancipation Proclamation do?
77. What did Susan B. Anthony do?
C: Recent American History and Other Important Historical Information
78. Name one war fought by the United States in the 1900s.
79. Who was President during World War I?
80. Who was President during the Great Depression and World War II?
81. Who did the United States fight in World War II?
82. Before he was President, Eisenhower was a general. What war was he in?
83. During the Cold War, what was the main concern of the United States?
84. What movement tried to end racial discrimination?
85. What did Martin Luther King, Jr. do?
86. What major event happened on September 11, 2001, in the United States?
87. Name one American Indian tribe in the United States.
88. Name one of the two longest rivers in the United States.
89. What ocean is on the West Coast of the United States?
90. What ocean is on the East Coast of the United States?
91. Name one U.S. territory.
92. Name one state that borders Canada.
93. Name one state that borders Mexico.
94. What is the capital of the United States?
95. Where is the Statue of Liberty?
96. Why does the flag have 13 stripes?
97. Why does the flag have 50 stars?
98. What is the name of the national anthem?
99. When do we celebrate Independence Day?
100. Name two national U.S. holidays.
Are you a U.S. citizen? Congratulations! Need to brush up on your facts? Here is a link to the 100 answers.
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