The United States is a country where people from different backgrounds, cultures, and religions can be found. The government and laws are organized so that you and other citizens from different backgrounds and different beliefs can have the same rights. This means that no one can be punished or harmed for having an opinion or belief that is different from that of other people , one can vote in free elections to choose important government officials, such as the president, vice president, senators, and representatives. The government of the United States is based on several important values: freedom, opportunity, equality, and justice which help to protect your rights. When you share these values, it gives you a common civic identity. Thus, as a citizen in US, you can help to shape the government and its policies when you learn about the important public issues as well as get involved in your communities. Each layer of US government – federal, state and local – provides a portion of the fabric of the services and safety nets for the public and each of these layers forms part of the system of government “federalism” which is a system of shared, distributed power between federal, state and local government. Every layer of US government has its own separation of powers and checks and balances and their different roles helps to minimize corruption, waste, fraud and abuse. State and local governments exercise important responsibilities to make living in US peaceful and fruitful. They plan and pay for most roads, run public schools, provide water, organize police and fire services in cases of emergency and help arrange elections. These and many more roles directly affect different parts of your life every day. While states are part of the larger entity of a federal system, local governments are creatures of the state and as such the states can abolish a local government, merge it with other entities or give it an additional authority. In addition, each state has its own constitution and government. Every state government has three branches: legislative, executive, and judicial and the leader of the state executive branch is called the governor. As citizen of your state, you can vote in elections to choose your governor and your representatives to the state legislature so as to make laws that apply in your state. These laws cannot go against the U.S. Constitution, hence the need to vote the right person who will stand in and protect your rights in your constituency and state. Your state’s judicial branch upholds the laws of your state. You can have either city or county governments, or sometimes both Local government is the form of government that is closest to the people and with which people come into contact most frequently. Each state also has local governments to help provide and oversee many services in your local community, such as public schools, libraries, police and fire departments, and water, gas, and electric services. In your local community, you vote your local government officials; however some local officials are appointed and need not be voted in. Local governments have different forms. Some have mayors as their leaders; others have city or county councils. Local communities, at the educational level, also has school boards, and these are a group of citizens who are elected or appointed to oversee the public schools.