SHOULD THE requirement that the president of the United States be a natural-born citizen be changed?
That's the gripping question that the recently formed Rendell Center for Citizenship and Civics at Arcadia University asked schools throughout the region for its first citizenship essay competition. Last week, finalists presented their essays addressing that question at the National Constitution Center to a panel of judges including former Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell and Judge Marjorie Rendell. We're publishing the first-prize winning essay, by Mrs. Friedlander's fifth-grade class at Merion Elementary School, Lower Merion School District.
We the fifth-grade citizens of Mrs. Friedlander's class believe that the requirements for president, as stated in the Constitution, should remain as written. We feel that it is not necessary for the constitutional criteria for president to be amended.
We believe that the Founding Fathers' concerns are just as valid today as they were over 200 years ago. They strongly believed that the leader of our country should be a devoted patriot. To ensure this loyalty, they required that any president should be a natural-born citizen. They wanted future presidents to be completely loyal to the United States of America. Alexander Hamilton and John Jay were particularly concerned that foreign influence could cloud a president's judgment and place the U.S. in unsteady hands. Their compelling arguments helped shape the requirements for president and are still extremely important and relevant today.
More than 15 countries modeled their constitutions after ours and all of these new democracies believed that nationality requirements were well-founded and crucial components. Our country is not alone in requiring that a citizen be born in the country that they wish to govern. Fidelity to your country, understanding the people and their way of life, and being a part of the culture of this great nation can only occur if you have been born and raised here.
When a president is elected and then takes the oath of office, he or she is pledging to "faithfully execute the Office of President of the United States."
To truly understand what this means, a person needs to have lived the life of a free American citizen. Appreciating the freedoms of our democracy can only occur if you have participated in living this way your whole life. Being able to practice your religion, have freedom of speech and organize protests is all part of being an American. To be appreciated and understood, these important American ideals and freedoms must be ingrained into the hearts and minds of each citizen from birth.
For all of these reasons, we believe that the Founding Fathers' requirement that a president be a natural-born citizen are as compelling today as they were on Sept. 17, 1787.