Call to citizen action; inaugural address stressed our responsibility

January 23, 2013 

In the swirl of verbiage tossed at an unsuspecting nation Monday by the talking heads who populated inauguration coverage, a comment that repeatedly washed to the surface was that President Barack Obama played his "long game" in this second inaugural address.

For the most part that referred to Obama's declaration of principles, such as endorsing gay rights as civil rights and asserting that the social safety net, far from dragging down the country, strengthens it.

It seems, though, that the very longest game Obama played he reserved for the closing sentences of his speech when he called on all of us as citizens to shape our country's future.

The president noted that his oath of office is not so different from that to which military personnel swear, or that new citizens take, or that any of us intone when we pledge allegiance to the flag.

"They are the words of citizens and they represent our greatest hope," he said.

This should come as no surprise in this republic, founded as a government of, by and for the people. We have no illusions that our founding was free of political maneuvering or rancor, or that our future could or should be.

But too often in the last few years, our elected representatives have been preoccupied not with governing but with hand-to-hand combat of, for and about scoring short-term political points.

Obama's call that all Americans — 100 percent, not 47 percent or 1 percent — should take up the work of citizenship shifts the balance of power, and responsibility, from a few inside the Beltway to the messy masses throughout the country.

He broadened the time frame, too, reaching further back than the last election and looking into a future well beyond the end of his term. "Let us answer the call of history and carry into an uncertain future that precious light of freedom," the president said.

That's a true long game. Let's all play.

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