Originating with the ancient Greeks, the concept of a good citizen remains central to any society. Yet the exact definitions of a good citizen will vary from culture to culture and person to person. To an extent, a society's social norms will dictate how a good citizen is defined. In most American communities, a good citizen is generally considered to be anyone who is not a bad citizen. Exemplary citizens are those whose service to the community goes above and beyond what it would take to be called a "good citizen." In other societies, being a good citizen might depend on more than just refraining from crime. For example, voting and community service might both be considered an integral part of being a good citizen. Interviews with classmates elucidated various approaches to defining what a good citizen is. All the answers suggested that obeying the law is an essential feature of a good citizen. However, we did not explore whether obeying the law was a sufficient means of defining good citizenship or whether obeying the law is just a necessary means. Furthermore, we did not determine whether a person could be a good citizen and also J-walk, or be a good citizen but not vote. Obeying laws, participating in the voting process, and volunteering or serving the community are some of the possible features of a good citizen.

Obeying laws seems to be at the very least an important part of being a good citizen. A convicted felon is generally not considered to be a good citizen, and neither is a vandal or someone who drives drunk. At the same time, even the best citizens occasionally break laws. It is therefore entirely possible that a person can break a city bylaw and still be a good citizen, so long as they harmed no one. Refraining from any behavior that might cause discomfort or harm to others is the core quality that helps define a good citizen, even more so than obeying the law strictly. In fact, a person who obeys all laws can still harm others by being verbally abusive, mean, or grumpy. The loner who participates little in community activities and who is an unpleasant person to be around might be law-abiding but a questionably good citizen. Thus, being a good citizen must depend on more than just obeying the law. Being a good citizen means treating fellow members of the community with respect and refraining from any and all offensive behavior.

One classmate noted that a good citizen should be defined as someone who gives back to the community in some way, such as by volunteering their time or helping others directly. The person mentioned a volunteer firefighter as a model good citizen: their selfless service characterizes those whose role in the community is outstanding. Therefore, some definitions of a good citizen require direct, positive action. Good citizens are not just those who obey laws; good citizens are those who obey laws and give back to the community. A definition of good citizen that requires selfless service is a strict one. Using a strict definition means that most individuals would not be considered good citizens, even if they were good people who work hard and obey all laws. Therefore, I believe that loyal public servants are exemplary citizens who go that extra step beyond being merely "good" citizens.

Another classmate suggested a similarly strict definition of good citizen: one who is recognized in the community. Definitions that depend on a person's public image or reputation make sense on some level: usually those are exemplary citizens whose work is so important to the community that they become renowned, loved, and admired. At the same time, many good Samaritan deeds go unrecognized, and a lot of dedicated volunteers are not people whose praises…