The concept of a right relates to the freedom from interference by other individuals or the government. Individual rights refer to the liberties of each individual to pursue life and goals without interference from other individuals or the government. Examples of individual rights include the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness as stated in the United States Declaration of Independence.
A community is a group of people with common interests and values. Community is characterized by "wholeness incorporating diversity" and may include people of different ages, ethnicities, educational backgrounds and incomes (Gardner 2003). Individuals may be members of two or more communities; for example, one of geographic residence and another of employment.
Community responsibilities are an individual's duties or obligations to the community and include cooperation, respect and participation. The concept goes beyond thinking and acting as individuals to common beliefs about shared interests and life. A basic community responsibility is voting in elections.
Each individual is part of a larger community. Family, neighbors, tribe, village, city, county, state, region, country and the world form a larger community in the life of every human being. At the same time, full human potential cannot be reached if individuality is suppressed by society.
In all free societies there is a constant and unavoidable tension between rights and responsibilities. Every right has a corresponding duty (U.S. Department of State).
It is the responsibility of the individual to watch over a community to make sure that standards are objective and beneficial to human life (Machan 2001).
In 1787, Thomas Jefferson, the chief architect of the Declaration of Independence, urged the drafters of the Constitution to clearly identify the rights of the people. Jefferson believed past governments had been harsh and restrictive to the populace, governed questionable areas with no just power to act no jurisdictional authority and the result had been a reduction or loss of individual rights (U.S. Department of State). Like Jefferson, many of the founding fathers' generation feared the encompassing and absolute power of a federal government and demanded a Bill of Rights to protect the people and limit the powers of a federal government.
The Bill of Rights contains the first ten amendments to the United States Constitution and includes the basic privileges of all United States citizens. Many of the rights written in the amendments resulted from the shared experience of both the British and the American colonists under British rule. All the amendments reflect the t close ties between personal freedom and democracy as versioned by the founding fathers' generation (U.S. Department of State). Over the years, the definition of some rights has changed and new concepts, such as privacy, were added to the Constitution. But the rights of the people are the core of American democracy. In this way, the United States is unique in the world; its tradition of individual rights strongly reflects the American experience.
Good definitions of "rights" are often lacking and subject to interpretation. However, the Constitution provides a mechanism for interpretation by the Supreme Court. People may disagree with the Supreme Court regarding the meaning of a specific right, but adherence to the rules of law requires obedience to the interpretation by the Court. The justices of the Supreme Court are sworn to uphold constitutional law; their duty is to reflect and decide evolving notions or conflicts of rights The Supreme Court is recognized as the chief agent for safeguarding constitutional rights and making decisions current with the needs of the time and society.