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by Lisa Sheldon, Guest Writer

Often, we are sent press releases regarding books that are about to be released. Unless they have specific ties to Calhoun County, we do not generally give them a second glance. Recently, we received a release about The Handbook for Americans, published by Hatherleigh Press and released for free as an eBook.

It contains copies of the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, facts, history, traditions, timelines and more. The focus is to give citizens important information to help them understand the country they live in and the rights they have. We all have the ability--and many would say the obligation--to actively participate in the shaping of our country’s future. If we remain inactive, we are choosing to allow others to choose our future.

The press release lists “11 Ways to Be a Better American.” Are you ready to be amazed by the simple suggestions they made?

Vote. By participating in elections at the local, state and national level, we make our opinions heard. Understand the issues. Learn as much as you can about the candidates. Vote responsibly.

Stay informed. Read newspapers and magazines. Talk to your friends, co-workers, neighbors. Go online and read current Bills before Congress. An educated American is an empowered citizen. Watch the news on television, but not just one channel. The more views you get, the better informed you are.

Exercise your right to free speech. When we articulately and intelligently state our opinions, popular or not, we truly live up to the hopes and dreams of the Founding Fathers. Freedom of speech is an extraordinary right.

Support American businesses. When we buy products labeled “Made in USA”, we are supporting our economy and creating jobs for our fellow citizens.

Support Americans in need. The Gulf oil disaster. Flash floods. Our neighbors need us. Help your fellow Americans. Donate your time, services or money to those less fortunate than you. 

Use your time meaningfully and wisely. Volunteer for local charities. Help out at the local school or nursing home. Organize a neighborhood clean-up. Let’s all do what we can to support each other and the communities we live in.

Reread our founding documents. The principles laid out in the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, and the Bill of Rights are timeless and essential. This country’s founders envisioned a future we are living out today--and we can turn to these documents whenever our democratic institutions and expectations are challenged and need to be reinvigorated.

Look to the past for perspective. Our Nation’s history is rich with moments when strength and resilience transcended hardship and adversity. Look to the lives of our great leaders, presidents, and citizens for inspiration.

Teach the next generation. Like anything else, enlightened patriotism comes from education, not ignorance. Teach children about the special rights and responsibilities we share as Americans, and how they can exercise those rights. Set the example by being a good citizen.

Enjoy and protect America’s natural resources. Conserve. Recycle. Help clean up a river or plant a tree. Our democracy deserves a home as beautiful as its ideals.

Above all else: Bet on Good. Believe in America. Believe that together we can forge a better future and better ways of doing things. Believe it, then do it. 

This book challenges each of us to make every day Independence Day by taking full advantage of your rights and responsibilities as a citizen of the U.S. The ultimate success of our democracy rests upon individual citizens who make up this great Nation.

I am not hawking the book, but if you are interested in reading more, you can download a free copy of The Handbook for Americans by visiting the Hatherleigh Bookstore website,, and follow the simple instructions.

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