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January 20, 2009

on the Inauguration of Barack Obama

We are in Washington, DC, for the Inauguration--attending some parties and trying to catch a glimpse of the actual event. This blog is carefully nonpartisan, because I believe there is an important nonpartisan agenda for civic renewal, which is the goal of my work and my writing. I think I was reasonably fair and even-handed here during the campaign. I tried to analyze the Clinton/Obama debate in a neutral way and I wrote very positively about John McCain. I have derived ideas and principles from modern conservatism.

But I was also a passionate supporter of Barack Obama, starting in 2004. I was honored to serve on his campaign's Education Policy Committee and Urban & Metropolitan Policy Committee for many months. I have high hopes for his presidency.

I am excited that he is African American--and his race is inseparable from other aspects of his persona--but that is definitely not why I voted for him. I am pleased that he was the youth candidate, winning an unprecedented 66% of the under-30 vote. I study and promote youth voting; but his popularity among Millennials was not why I voted for him. He is a wonderful speaker, and his words enrich our public life and even our language at the beginning of the 21st century. But that is not why I voted for him.

I voted for him because he comes straight out of the movement for what he calls "active citizenship," and he is going to try to bring that movement back into national politics. His background includes community organizing in Chicago (the birthplace of community organizing), seminars on civil society with Robert Putnam, and civic education as a law professor. He has judged youth media contests and organized service events. His wife has worked for an AmeriCorps program and organized community partnerships for a major university. These are basic ingredients of the movement that I think represents the best of America today. (You can follow recent news from such programs here.)

For those of us in that movement (and it is open to all), our job must now shift. We must be custodians of the ideas that inspired Obama. He will need to compromise and deal with other issues and problems, and he will probably lose perspective. We need to keep thinking and talking clear-sightedly about active citizenship. If leadership is deciding which pressure to cave to, we can help by applying some pressure from the civic side. As the new President said all along, this election is not about him; it's about us. I like the idea of a "citizens' oath of office." Nothing would conclude the remarkable Obama Campaign better than a mutual pledge to take our own, independent, public role seriously for the next four years.

January 20, 2009 8:32 AM | category: Barack Obama , Barack Obama | Comments


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