Actor Richard Dreyfuss: ‘Thinking’ as a Citizen, ‘Sooner or Later Makes Your Head Hurt’

By Nicholas Ballasy | January 28, 2011 | 5:00 AM EST

( – Academy Award-winning actor Richard Dreyfuss, who is spearheading a civics education initiative across the country, said the responsibilities of a good citizen require hard, long-term thinking that “sooner or later makes your head hurt.”

At the National Press Club on Tuesday, asked Dreyfuss, “Would you say the lack of civility, the harsh rhetoric is on both sides, the left and the right?”

Dreyfuss said, “Yes. You can’t distinguish between the bad guys are on the right and the good guys are on the left. The bad guys are the bad guys and that’s really the future delineation of, literally, the party system.”

“The complement of Republican democracy is that it asks the public to think,” he said.  “The public was never, ever asked to think before because in every other theory of governance they were simply not part of the story, and the king would appoint someone from the aristocratic class to take care of the postal service and that was that.”

Actor Richard Dreyfus at the Big Apple Convention in Manhattan, June 8, 2008. (Wikipedia Commons)

“Now, the common man has to learn how to think things through and think as a citizen, not just as a baker or a philologist,” said Dreyfuss. “He has to think as an American citizen and as a sovereign. And thinking, no matter who you are or what you think you know, sooner or later makes your head hurt. And it’s hard. And many people say, ‘It hurts too much, you take care of it.’”

“And the real delineation of the future of political opposition, in the future will be those who are willing to think things through, however much of a headache it gives them, and those who aren’t,” said Dreyfuss.

Dreyfuss spoke with following his speech on civic education and civility in politics as part of his “Dreyfuss Initiative,” at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C.