Please weigh in, agree or disagree, thoughtfully and respectfully. Ferocity and passion are encouraged; disrespect is not. Thank you for reading, and seeing this as a conversation rather than a monologue.

June 30, 2010

Our Job Description

The Obama campaign asked Americans to write about what the Inauguration meant to us. My response was as follows:

On Inauguration Day, Barack Obama will stand as proxy for every American: as he takes the oath of office, every one of us must renew our dedication to the work that gave our nation its life. President Obama will face challenges that he will only be able to meet if Americans continue and build on the work begun by our forefathers.
We are the children and grandchildren of the “tired, poor, huddled masses, yearning to breathe free.” They did not want and would not tolerate life without the freedoms needed to do good work, raise loving families, and build vibrant communities. Refusing to acquiesce to a government that curtailed their dreams, they fought instead to design one that would protect our freedoms, check our baser instincts, and further our aspirations. We seek not merely the reward of doing things right, but the pride that comes of accomplishing the more difficult work - of doing the right thing.
Americans are called, not merely to excel, but to lead by example. We are living, growing proof that diverse peoples can live peacefully together. Our differences do not make it easy, but they make us strong and resilient; our founding principles illuminate our common nature and point us to the noble work worthy of our combined strength.
Let us imagine a new era of American leadership: restoring the environment, building a more just, secure and sustainable economy, extending civil rights to all, and pursuing justice and human rights for all. These are challenges to inspire us to blaze new trails, to assume the risks and responsibilities of leadership. Has there ever been a greater opportunity for Americans to prove the validity of our founding principles and our belief that humanity can rise to any challenge? Challenges so great will bring glory to the people who imagine and create a future that we are proud to leave to our children.
On Inauguration Day, we wish President-elect Obama well. While he is meeting the challenges of the presidency, we will meet those of being Americans. We will not forget the sacrifices made by our parents and grandparents, nor what is at stake for our children and grandchildren. To those who seek an American empire, I say that you lack imagination and ambition. Our nation was conceived, not as a power over the world, but as a light in the world. We do not seek to be Rome. We work, rather, to be a light to people of principle the world over. We aspire to be home to the highest hopes and greatest principles that humans have yet dreamt. Power exhausts itself; light goes on forever.
In the spirit of the Inauguration, and my belief that every one of us must renew and strengthen our commitments to our communities, nation and planet, if we have any hope of seeing real change in America, I have registered for the day of service taking place next Monday, January 19, the observation of Martin Luther King, Jr.'s birthday. You, too, can register to begin serving at . [This link is still active on June 30, 2010.] If you live in Santa Fe, you can see a list of volunteer opportunities in our area at [This site has expired.] If you live outside of Santa Fe, please find listings for volunteer service in your community and share them with your neighbors. The USA Service web site is a good place to begin searching.
What we won at the voting booth is just a leg up. We need leadership in the White House and in the business communities but, more than that, we need to be active in our own communities. Find someplace to plug in. If it doesn't fit – and some of them won't – move on and find one where you feel you're engaged and making a difference. We must leave behind the practice of asking from government and industry the kinds of changes that we can bring about on our own.
Here's to augmenting the hope with which we greet Obama's inauguration with our firm commitment to carry out the work that makes our own lives worth living.


  1. John, as you know, like you I was inspired by my involvement in the Obama campaign. After the election, prompted by the First Lady and President's encouragement that we personally contribute to our communities, I created a resource site to help Santa Feans more easily find volunteer opportunities. Since the site you initially posted for local involvement is no longer active, I present as an alternative for your readers ¡EngageVolunteer! -- -- and hope it inspires them to satisfy their soul and spark a dream by volunteering.

  2. Perfect! Thanks, Gaye. Wish I'd thought to include it myself.

    For all of you in Santa Fe, EngageVolunteer is a great resource. For those of you outside the Santa Fe area, I encourage you to look at EngageVolunteer and think about how something similar could work in your own communities.

    - John


Because I Need to Know If McAndrew Is Full Of It