Welcome to America

the home of the brave


Welcome to the United States of America. The USA is one of the most prosperous countries in the world, but it can be somewhat confusing for a new citizen. This guide is meant for the newcomers to hope to be Americans.

What Are States and Why Do We Have Them?

As you may know, America is split into 50 separate states, which are basically just divisions inside our large country. There are many advantages and disadvantages of having separate states within America. Some say that the states divide us, make it hard for third party presidential candidates, and make it hard to keep track of the different state laws and regulations. Others would say that the separate states work for a country of our size, and that there is more representation of citizens. The difference in the needs of each individual state also helps with the individual law-making. States can also limit the power that the federal government has over us.

What Does the Government Do for Us?

A constitution is a set of rules that protects the citizens from unjust laws created by a corrupt government. There are constitutions at state and federal levels, depending on the needs of each area. America is very large and has so many different areas so the governments could be hard to control with only one set of rules. The constitution confines the federal and local governments so that they cannot become corrupt and tyrannical. Constitutions keep the citizens safe.
The Constitution, the Articles, and Federalism: Crash Course US History #8

What's the Preamble and What Does It Mean?

The preamble is the beginning section of the constitution. It explains what the constitution is for and how it will help America’s government and its’ citizens. The preamble is a list of things that the government has promised to us.
    • In order to form a more perfect union means that the country will work together with all the separate states and that we as a country will keep striving for a perfect country.

    • Establish justice means that the government will create a fair way to interpret the laws

    • Insure domestic tranquility the government will make sure that America is peaceful

    • Provide for the common defense means that the states will all work together to defend the citizens

    • Promote the general welfare the government will assure the well-being of citizens will be as well taken care of as possible

    • Secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity this means that America’s freedom will be secured, not only for us, but for our future generations.

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What Does This Picture Mean?

The graphic above describes the American Federal Government. The federal legislative branch consists of the House of Representatives and the Senate (the Congress). Congress approves presidential nominations and legislates the budget, and they have the power to impeach the president and override his/her veto. The president and executive offices make up the executive branch. They enforce the laws and the president can veto or approve the laws that the legislative branch makes. The judicial branch interprets the laws and can decide if they are unconstitutional. The judicial branch consists of the supreme court, and other lower level courts. The American government involves a system called checks and balances to make sure no branch of government is too powerful.

The federal and state branches of government are almost exactly the same. They both have three separate branches (legislative, executive, and judicial) that work together to ensure that no one branch is more powerful than the other. Although the state government is slightly different than the federal government, they are essentially the same and work the same way.

A citizen can become involved with the government by voting for electors (federal level) or by voting for the leaders directly (state level). They can also pay taxes to help support the government and obey laws to keep people safe.

The above article demonstrates the Judicial Branch's power in the government.
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The government works together to achieve a common goal, just like the people above.
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What Does This One Mean?

This graphic is another flowchart that describes how the government works together, but this time it describes the Illinois State Government as opposed to the Federal Government.
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This further explains the local government.
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What is Federalism?

The American government uses federalism in their governing system. Federalism is the division of the government into three sections: Federal, State, and Local. Federalism makes sure that not one person in the government has too much power. Each government takes care of a different issue depending on how large-scale the government is. The graphic below shows each government and the things they are in charge of. For instance, while the local government takes care of things inside a certain town or city (like recreational facilities and 911 responders), the state government takes care of things within the state (such as licensing exams and hospitals), and the federal government takes of things across the country (like national currency and the FAA). These three sections work together for the common good of the people. The graphic above explains this via a Venn Diagram.
Federalism: Crash Course Government and Politics #4
The article above shows the local government at work.

Does Federalism always work?

Although federalism is a good system, it doesn’t always work because the separate governments do not communicate well enough, or they aren’t prepared to help. For instance, Hurricane Katrina in 2005 was a serious disaster because each government, instead of trying to fix the problem, instead pinned the responsibility on another government and refused to do anything. In turn, nothing was accomplished and many people had died or had been hurt.

To avoid another experience like Katrina, the government must work together and be prepared. Federalism can only work if everybody works together. Federalism can work if...

    • We make sure our public officials understand how the federal system of government works

    • Governments are prepared

    • Governments have emergency plans

    • Governments are able to communicate well

    • Governments know how to help

    • Governments are held accountable to ensure that the mistake doesn’t happen again

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The picture above depicts some of the damage done during Hurricane Katrina. Unfortunately, the government didn't work well together, and many people were hurt.
The article above shares news about hurricane Katrina and comments on the lack of teamwork within the government during that time.

What Responsibilities Do I Have As a Citizen?

American citizens have many responsibilities and many obligations.

The responsibility of a citizen is something a citizen could do and should do for the betterment of themselves and their country. A citizen could vote for government leaders, volunteer to help the sick or the poor, or simply become involved with their local government.
The obligation of a citizen is something a citizen must do. If a citizen does not fulfill an obligation of the law, there can be serious ramifications. For instance, citizen must pay taxes, must go to jury duty, and must register to be drafted upon turning 18.

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How Can I Contact Government Officials?

You would contact a Federal Congress member if you had a complaint, question, or request regarding something that the Federal government controls, or maybe to introduce an idea for a bill through the member.
    • You can find and contact your senator here

    • You can find and contact your house member here

The same is true at the state level. You would contact a State General Assembly member if you had a complaint, question, or request regarding something that the State government controls, or maybe to introduce an idea for a bill for a state law through the member.
    • You can find and contact your General Assembly member here

I have some more questions...

Elvan Muratoglu


“The Constitution.” The White House. The White House, n.d. Web. 29 Sep. 2015. <https://www.whitehouse.gov/1600/constitution>

“The Frame: Hurricane Katrina Five Years Later - Sacbee.Com.” The Sacramento Bee. Web. 23 Sep. 2015. <http://blogs.sacbee.com/photos/2010/08/hurricane-katrina-five-years-l.html>

“Rights And Duties.” bitLanders. Web. 23 Sep. 2015. <http://www.bitlanders.com/blogs/rights-and-duties/78474>

“Watching The Wire 2009 Archive.” Watching the Wire 2009 archive RSS. Web. 23 Sep. 2015. <http://sites.middlebury.edu/thewire09/contexts/context-urban-politics/>

“Business-People-Working-Together-istock_000017346252medium.Jpg.” business-people-working-together-istock_000017346252medium.jpg. Web. 29 Sep. 2015. <http://road.issn.org/en/file/business-people-working-together-istock000017346252mediumjpg>