Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Do your bit for R&R Day

If there's one thing that sharply demarcates the essential difference between Barack Obama's presidency—already—and George W's disastrous eight-year folly, it's this: personal responsibility. Obama has already demonstrated this in the preparedness of his pre-election readiness with his transition team, then with the work he and his transition team did so he could get started right away, then with the symbolic work at charities on Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, and now with his first- and second-day schedules.

I don't think we're going see an excessive amount of vacation time from the 44th president.

(Still, all work and no play…apparently Americans work harder than is good for them. George W., in my estimation, was freakin' lazy and didn't work enough! But that's another issue. George, in contrast to Obama, has real problems with being responsible for his own actions, or lack thereof. He demanded complete loyalty, rather like a feudal lord, but he didn't fulfil the other end of the bargain: responsibility to those who'd placed their trust in him, responsibility to the Constitution he'd sworn to uphold and protect. Nope. I don't think W. ever quite understood the value of that oath.)

Personal responsibility is also what Obama's asking of us, all of us, as individuals, as a nation. Government in this country is not about "Gummint vs. the People": government is the people. Unless, of course, we slack off and don't do our job. Our job is to be engaged, to be the government, to take responsibility for our own actions, for our neighborhoods, for our communities, for our state and our country. And the way to do that is elbow grease. Git out there and do your bit!

I've been thinking about this a lot lately. What is it that I do to contribute to the wellbeing of my community? How can I fulfill my duty as a citizen? as a responsible human being? Voting and jury duty are the two basic duties, but what Obama is asking us to do is go far beyond that:
We are in the midst of a season of trial. Our Nation is being tested, and our people know great uncertainty. Yet the story of America is one of renewal in the face of adversity, reconciliation in a time of discord, and we know that there is a purpose for everything under heaven.

On this Inauguration Day, we are reminded that we are heirs to over two centuries of American democracy, and that this legacy is not simply a birthright -- it is a glorious burden. Now it falls to us to come together as a people to carry it forward once more.

So in the words of President Abraham Lincoln, let us remember that: "The mystic chords of memory, stretching from every battlefield and patriot grave to every living heart and hearthstone all over this broad land, will yet swell the chorus of the Union, when again touched, as surely they will be, by the better angels of our nature."

NOW, THEREFORE, I, BARACK OBAMA, President of the United States of America, by the authority vested in me by the Constitution and laws of the United States, do hereby proclaim January 20, 2009, a National Day of Renewal and Reconciliation, and call upon all of our citizens to serve one another and the common purpose of remaking this Nation for our new century.
It's R&R day, Rest & Relaxation through Renewal & Reconciliation. The gods know we need it.

I'm also liking what I'm reading here:
Communication -- Americans are eager for information about the state of the economy, national security and a host of other issues. [} will feature timely and in-depth content meant to keep everyone up-to-date and educated. Check out the briefing room, keep tabs on the blog (RSS feed) and take a moment to sign up for e-mail updates from the President and his administration so you can be sure to know about major announcements and decisions.

Transparency -- President Obama has committed to making his administration the most open and transparent in history, and will play a major role in delivering on that promise. The President's executive orders and proclamations will be published for everyone to review, and that’s just the beginning of our efforts to provide a window for all Americans into the business of the government. You can also learn about some of the senior leadership in the new administration and about the President’s policy priorities.

Participation -- President Obama started his career as a community organizer on the South Side of Chicago, where he saw firsthand what people can do when they come together for a common cause. Citizen participation will be a priority for the Administration, and the internet will play an important role in that. One significant addition to reflects a campaign promise from the President: we will publish all non-emergency legislation to the website for five days, and allow the public to review and comment before the President signs it.
In other words, one basic responsibility is to inform ourselves, and another is to participate in what our government does.

Sloth is not rest. That's important to remember.

I put the paper, this blog, and the Ester library stuff I do in the category of citizen participation. These are things that, I believe, make the world a better place. Newspapers and blogs are there to inform people, not only of the actual news, but of the feelings of people and the meaning of events. Libraries—well, man, that's a whole additional blog post. And the fact that they are local is also a big deal to me: grassroots, folks, home-grown.


rainywalker said...

Your doing your part. I have volunteered for forty years in the community and continue. If the next four years does not work out the only individuals to blame will be the American people.

Deirdre Helfferich said...

Yup. It's funny, there's some people who are community-minded, and others who aren't. I think they miss out on a lot. It's very satisfying to know that you're part of something larger than just the confines of your house or your immediate circle. There's only so much a person can do, of course, but each person should do something. For one thing, it helps keep the mad volunteers from going quite as mad quite as quickly, so they don't burn out...or at least gives them a chance to rest up a bit so they don't stay burnt out for as long.

I think it's important to actually do something, personally, rather than, say, just throw a check in the mail for some charity. It's really getting out there that makes it happen. Both are needed—an actual volunteer, and resources for the volunteer to work with.