I have had the good fortune to be taught by many excellent classroom teachers. From elementary school through high school I learned how great it is to be an American. We studied the incredibly eloquent and inspirational writings of Thomas Jefferson, Patrick Henry, Benjamin Franklin and many others. The leadership and rhetoric that existed at the birth of our nation was amazing. Certainly some of the best in all of human history.

Consider the Declaration of Independence: “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. — That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed ...”

And, the preamble to the U.S. 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 ...”

From the Revolutionary War to today our heritage, our tradition, our imperative is “a government of the people, by the people, for the people ...” So how did we get to this point where it is commonplace to refer to “the government” as an adversary; that the government is some “them” that cannot be trusted?

I firmly believe the government is us. We are a democracy. We have a civic duty to participate in the governance of our nation.

It is encouraging to see the increase in the number of citizens who are putting their names on ballots for elected office. For those of us who also feel a desire and willingness to get involved but do not want to expose ourselves to the vitriol of partisan politics, there is ample opportunity. Every municipality in our valley has a number of citizen committees that want your input.

I am a member of the Jackson County Natural Resources Advisory Committee (NRAC). Our purpose is: “To advise Jackson County Board of Commissioners on matters regarding local, state, federal and tribal natural resources that directly or indirectly affect Jackson County lands and the citizens of Jackson County ... the membership of the committee shall be represented by a diversity and balance of natural resource interests ... (such as) forest management, small woodlands resources, water sources, agricultural lands, grazing, mining/aggregate resources, fish and wildlife resources, natural resource sciences, environmental at large, city and county representatives at large, watershed councils, and commerce.”

In the two years I have been on the committee our agenda items have included wolves, drought, irrigation and other water issues, a number of forestry issues, the Pacific Connector LNG pipeline, marijuana as an agricultural crop, and other relevant natural resource issues in Jackson County. Our next meeting is at 2 p.m. Tuesday, May 8 at the Jackson County Courthouse, 10 S. Oakdale Ave., Room 202. All meetings are open to the public and include a brief public comment period. There are some vacancies on the committee. You can find application instructions on the Jackson County website.

NRAC is just one of many Jackson County committees that hold public meetings and would appreciate your input. There are plenty of opportunities to get involved. If you are new to Oregon, let me assure you that citizen participation is a core value of our state. It is who we are. We listen to our neighbors.

A final quote from Thomas Paine (I love these guys): “Those who expect to reap the blessings of freedom must, like men, undergo the fatigue of supporting it."

— Dave Garcia lives in Medford.