Values / Service / Personal Example

Citizenship and Leadership

A short primer

Mark McMillion
5 min readJun 12


Photo credit: Eva Beto, All Rights Reserved

This is an adaptation of a short speech I gave Friday to a group of young people ages 9–19. They were finishing a weeklong camp capped by a service project. I was asked to talk about citizenship and leadership. How’d I do?

There are two types of people in this world. People who contribute to society and people who take. I’m not here to judge anyone but I’d like to talk with you about your decision. NO matter how old you are, you can decide which kind of person you want to be. You don’t get to decide for other people and it’s not your job to tell them what they are.

When you have a job and pay taxes, you contribute. Your job is what helps other people get or do the things they want to do. Your taxes are what pay for roads, schools, and the military among other things. Just by having a regular job, you’re contributing to your community, whether it’s your hometown, your state, or anywhere else in America. You’re part of something bigger than yourself.

That’s part of being a citizen, but not just a citizen, a good citizen. But that’s not the only way to contribute. Your actions here show there are many ways to give.

You’ve just given dozens of man-hours as a group to make this place nicer, cleaner, more attractive — BETTER. Because of what you did, both as a group as well as an individual, you’ve made things more enjoyable for everyone who comes here. I’ve been here many times before. I’ve been here for middle school cross-country events, for a picnic, just to hang out. Because of what people before you did, it was enjoyable. Because of what you’ve done, it will stay that way for people all summer and into the fall. Thank you.

You’ve contributed. You’ve given of yourself, your effort, your time, and your energy to make things better for others. Those aren’t small things — they’re HUGE. It’s what great citizens do — they make things better for others. Themselves too, nothing wrong with that, but for others as well. You should bring your families back here and enjoy the fruits of your labor. You can show your parents, aunts, uncles, cousins, grandparents — Look there, look at that. See that? I did that. I made that table cleaner and more attractive…



Mark McMillion

Retired Army officer with two tours in Baghdad, married with four kids. Proud West Virginian and West Point grad. Works available on Amazon.