Now Comes The Hard Part

Now Comes The Hard Part
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by Faiz Shakir, Amanda Terkel, Satyam Khanna, Matt Corley, Benjamin Armbruster, Ali Frick, Ryan Powers, and Brad Johnson

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Yesterday, under bright skies and before an estimated crowd of more than a million people gathered on the National Mall, Barack Hussein Obama took the oath of office to become the 44th President of the United States. President Obama marked the historic occasion with a somber but stirring inaugural address, telling America that the "challenges we face" -- real, many, and serious -- "will be met."After eight years of conservative misrule in a complex and changing world, the United States faces war, recession, the climate crisis, and systems of health care and education that continue to fail too many Americans. Obama declared these ills not just a "consequence of greed and irresponsibility on the part of some" but also "our collective failure to make hard choices." He repeated a common theme of his candidacy -- that good government alone is not sufficient to restore America's promise. Instead, "the faith and determination of the American people" set the course of the nation. "Starting today," Obama said, "we must pick ourselves up, dust ourselves off, and begin again the work of remaking America."

'THE WORK OF REMAKING AMERICA': The Bush administration was marked by a near-ideological adherence to irresponsibility. The dismissal of facts, the failure to plan, and the elevation of politics over competence, led to a host of problems that now consume this nation. Repeatedly, Obama obliquely rebuked the legacy of the previous office-holder. Obama pledged to change the course of government, saying that "our time of standing pat, of protecting narrow interests and putting off unpleasant decisions -- that time has surely passed." He pledged to "restore science to its rightful place" -- after eight years of "concerted assault" on the environment and inaction on global warming. Obama rejected "as false the choice between our safety and our ideals" -- in contrast to Bush, who personally authorized torture. And he signaled a new course in foreign policy, telling the Muslim world that "we seek a new way forward, based on mutual interest and mutual respect."

'THE PRICE AND THE PROMISE OF CITIZENSHIP': In the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks, Bush rallied the nation to continue shopping. In 2006, with recession looming, Bush asked the American people to "go shopping more." In a stark contrast, Obama defined his ideal of the "price and the promise of citizenship." He called for "a new era of responsibility," in which every American recognizes "that we have duties to ourselves, our nation, and our world, duties that we do not grudgingly accept but rather seize gladly, firm in the knowledge that there is nothing so satisfying to the spirit, so defining of our character than giving our all to a difficult task." In a service event on Martin Luther King Jr. Day, "when a grateful nation emulates Dr. King's sacrifice and service to others," Obama explained his vision of shared responsibility. "If we're just waiting around for somebody else to do it for us, if we're waiting around for somebody else to clean up the vacant lot or waiting for somebody else to get involved in tutoring a child, if we're waiting for somebody else to do something, it never gets done," he said. "We're going to have to take responsibility -- all of us."

'THE SPIRIT OF SERVICE': Obama honored the men and women of the armed services "not only because they are guardians of our liberty, but because they embody the spirit of service: a willingness to find meaning in something greater than themselves," he said. Obama then argued that this spirit "must inhabit us all." this call to service is not new. In the early days of his presidential campaign, Obama "advocated a major expansion of the Peace Corps, AmeriCorps and other national service programs," and established a goal of "50 hours of community service per year for middle and high school students." For MLK Day, Obama asked "all Americans to make an ongoing commitment to better the lives of others." The Obama team established USAService.org, a website meant to be a clearinghouse for service opportunities. Over 11,000 service projects across the country -- "from working in homeless shelters and mentoring young people to assembling more than 80,000 care packages for our troops at a service event here in Washington, D.C." -- were organized on the site. As one volunteer in Albuquerque, NM, told reporters, "More people need to be aware that this isn't just six people building a fence, but instead a community coming together to say, 'All right we're getting involved, we're going to make a difference.'"

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