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The Civics Glossary
Declaration of Independence (1776) - document listing American colonial grievances against Britain was drafted by Thomas Jefferson (1743-1826), John Adams (1735-1826), Benjamin Franklin (1706-1790), Roger Sherman (1721-1793), and Robert R. Livingston (1746-1813) and signed by John Hancock (1737-1793) on July 4, 1776 at the Second Continental Congress. Most of the other 55 delegates, from all thirteen colonies, signed it on August 2, 1774. With elegance and clarity, the document described the natural rights of all people, listed the "injuries and usurpations" inflicted by the King and Parliament on the people of the American colonies, and declared that, due to the failure of the King and Parliament to promote the rights of its American subjects, the thirteen colonies officially declared themselves "free and independent states." In the eyes of Britain, this amounted to an act of treason, and all the signers of the document would have been in danger of a torturous execution if they had lost the war that backed up the assertions of the Declaration.
Democracy - rule by the people. In the United States, democracy refers to a system of government which derives its power from the consent of the majority and governs according to the will of the majority.
Democratic Party - one of the two major political parties in the United States. Different members of the Democratic Party hold different political views, and the party platform may change from administration to administration. Nevertheless, the Democratic Party has generally draws support from working class people, women and minorities; and has traditionally supported expanding the level of government participation in the society and economy.
Department of Agriculture (USDA) - established in 1889, one of the Cabinet departments. The Department of Agriculture is headed by the Secretary of Agriculture. The USDA is responsible for agricultural conservation and rural development projects; agricultural marketing, credit, research and education; and crop stabilization. The divisions and agencies of the Department of Agriculture include: the Forest Service, the Natural Resources Conservation Service; the Consolidated Farm Service Agency, the Foreign Agricultural Service; the Rural Utilities Service, the Rural Housing and Community Development Service, the Rural Business and Cooperative Development Service; the Food and Consumer Service; the Food Safety and Inspection Service; the Agricultural Research Service, the Cooperative State Research, Education and Extension Service, the Economic Research Service, the National Agricultural Statistics Service; the Agricultural Marketing Service, the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, the Grain Inspection, Packers and Stockyards Administration; and other administrative offices including: the Office of Congressional and Intergovernmental Relations, the Civil Rights Enforcement; Information Resources Management; Operations; Personnel; Administrative Law Judges; Judicial Officer; and the Board of Contract Appeals.
Department of Commerce - one of the Cabinet departments, established in 1903. The Commerce Department is the center of the federal government's programs to promote the well-being of the economy and encourage business. Its mission is to encourage technological advances, help promote economic growth and encourage international trade. The agencies of the Department of Commerce include: the Bureau of the Census; the National Bureau of Standards; the Patent and Trademark Office; the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration; the United States Travel and Tourism Administration; the National Technical Information Service; the Minority Business Development Agency; the Bureau of Economic Analysis; the International Trade Administration, the Bureau of Export Administration, the Economic Development Administration, and the National Telecommunications and Information Administration.
Department of Defense (DOD) - one of the Cabinet departments, created in 1947. The department was formerly known as the Department of War, but later was combined with the Department of the Navy to create the Department of Defense by President Truman. The DOD provides military forces to protect the security of the United States and prevent war. It is headed by the Secretary of Defense, and includes: the Office of the Secretary of Defense; the Joint Chiefs of Staff; the unified combatant commands; the Army, Navy (including the Marines) and Air Force; and other offices and agencies.
Department of Education - one of the Cabinet departments, created in 1979. This department administers and coordinates most federal funding for education, and aims to ensure educational access to all children in the United States. In addition, the Department of Education promotes educational excellence through special programs. Among the offices in the Department of Education are: the Office of Elementary and Secondary Education; the Office of Post secondary Education and the Office of Bilingual Education and Minority Languages Affairs.
Department of Energy - one of the Cabinet departments, created in 1977 by combining all federal energy agencies into a Cabinet-level department. The department supports research and other projects on topics such as nuclear energy, nuclear weapons, the marketing of federal power; energy conservation and radioactive waste management. The Secretary of Energy heads the department; which is largely divided into three sets of programs: National Security and Environmental Management; Science and Technology and Energy.
Department of Health and Human Services - established in 1953, one of the Cabinet departments. This department is headed by the Secretary of Health and Human Services. It performs administrative, research, educational, and regulatory functions for welfare, public assistance, and public health programs. The Department of Health and Human Services includes the following agencies: the Public Health Service; the Administration on Aging, the Administration for Children and Families, the Health Care Financing Administration, and the Office of Consumer Affairs.
Department of Housing and Urban Development - established in 1965, one of the Cabinet departments. Headed by the Secretary of Housing and Urban Development, it conducts insurance, rent subsidy and grant programs in housing and urban development. The department is divided into three sections, each under the administration of an assistant secretary: Community Planning and Development; Housing; and Public and Indian Housing.
Department of Justice - one of the Cabinet departments, created in 1870. The Attorney General is the head of the Justice Department. Early in the nation's history, the attorney general was an assistant to the president, while the State Department administered most of the duties currently performed by the Justice Department. Today, the department acts as the country's largest law firm. It provides legal advice for the president and officials of other Cabinet departments; represents the United States in court; enforces most federal civil and criminal laws. The divisions and bureaus of the Department of Justice include: the Office of the Solicitor General; Civil Rights Division; Civil Division; Antitrust Division; Environment and Natural Resources Division; Tax Division; the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI); Criminal Division; Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA); the Bureau of Prisons; United States Marshals Office; Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS); and the United States National Central Bureau - Interpol.
Department of Labor - one of the Cabinet departments, established in 1913. Congress commissioned the Department of Labor to "foster, promote, and develop the welfare of the wage earners of the United States, to improve the working conditions, and to advance their opportunities for profitable employment." The Secretary of Labor is the head of the department. The program agencies that make up the Department of Labor are: the Occupational Safety and Health Administration; the Employment and Training Administration; the Mine Safety and Health Administration; the Pension and Welfare Benefits Administration; the Veterans' Employment and Training Service; the Employment Standards Administration; the Bureau of Labor Statistics; and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration.
Department of State - one of the Departments of the Cabinet, created in 1789. The State Department has bureaus which deal with political affairs: the Bureau of African Affairs; the Bureau of East Asian and Pacific Affairs; the Bureau of European and Canadian Affairs; the Bureau of Inter-American Affairs; the Bureau of Near-Eastern Affairs; the Bureau of South Asian Affairs; and the Bureau of International Organization Affairs. Other bureaus deal with issues related to various other aspects of administration and policy. These include the Bureau of Administration; the Bureau of Consular Affairs; the Bureau of Diplomatic Security; the Bureau of Economic and Business Affairs; the Bureau of Political-Military Affairs; and the Bureau of Public Affairs. The Foreign Service Institute is also part of the State Department, as well as the Agency for International Development; the Arms Control and Disarmament Agency and the United States Information Agency.
Department of the Interior - established in 1849, this Cabinet department is headed by the Secretary of the Interior. The Department of the Interior functions as the major conservation agency for the federal government. Its major duties include: managing public lands, which consist of over 500 million acres; promoting the conservation, development, and use of mineral, water, fish, and wildlife resources; reclaiming arid lands for farm use; operating federal hydroelectric power facilities; administering the national parks system; and being responsible for the Native American Reservations. The bureaus and services that make up the Department of the Interior are: the National Park Service; the National Biological Survey; the Bureau of Indian Affairs; the Bureau of Land Management; the Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement; the Minerals Management Service; the United States Fish and Wildlife Service; the Bureau of Reclamation; the United States Geological Survey; the Bureau of Reclamation; and the United States Bureau of Mines; and the Office of Territorial and International Affairs.
Department of the Treasury - one of the Cabinet departments, created in 1789. The department is headed by the Secretary of the Treasury. The department acts as the primary financial agency of the federal government. It collects taxes and customs duties; manages the public debt; enforces criminal laws relating to taxes, smuggling, and counterfeiting; does accounting for public money; supervises national banks; and manufactures paper money and coins. The bureaus of the Department of the Treasury include: the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency; the Bureau of the Public Debt; the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms; the United States Customs Service; United States Secret Service; the Internal Revenue Service; the United States Mint; and the Bureau of Engraving and Printing.
Department of Transportation - one of the Cabinet departments, created in 1966. This department establishes the overall transportation policy of the nation. The Secretary of Transportation, who heads the department, the staff of the department and state and local officials work together to determine policies for highways, railroads, aviation, urban mass transit, oil and gas pipelines, ports, waterways and other transportation-related issues. These policies affect other programs, such as energy conservation, land planning and technological change. Among the agencies and offices of the Department of Transportation are: the United States Coast Guard; the Federal Aviation Administration; the Federal Railroad Administration; the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration; the Federal Transit Administration; the Saint Lawrence Seaway Development Corporation; the Maritime Administration; the Research and Special Programs Administration; and the Bureau of Transportation Statistics.
Department of Veterans' Affairs - one of the Cabinet departments. The department was created in 1989 out of the Veteran's Administration, which had been an independent agency under the President since 1930. The Secretary of Veterans' Affairs heads the department, which operates programs to help veterans and their families. These programs include disability and death compensation payments; pensions; education and rehabilitation; home loan guarantees; burials; and a medical care program.
Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) - created in 1973, and part of the Department of Justice, this agency administers and enforces federal laws which relate to controlled and illegal substances, especially narcotics and other dangerous drugs.
Dual federalism - view of federalism that considers the national and state governments equal, but independent partners, with distinct responsibilities. According to this view, the two levels of government should not interfere with the work of the other. The dual federalism approach emerged after the Civil War and until the turn of the century.
Due process of law - proper legal procedure. The Constitution guarantees that every American citizen be protected from arbitrary actions by the government buy requiring the government to follow specific procedures, defined by law, in situations like investigating criminal actions and arresting suspects.fg
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