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Posted at 7:00 AM ET, 01/13/2011

Obama recasts his 'cool again' pledge

By Ed O'Keefe

Eye Opener

During his address to the nation Wednesday evening in Arizona, President Obama inadvertently recast his 2008 campaign pledge to make government "cool again."

Obviously impacted by the story of 9-year old shooting victim Christina Taylor Green, Obama noted how she was "just becoming aware of our democracy; just beginning to understand the obligations of citizenship; just starting to glimpse the fact that some day she, too, might play a part in shaping her nation's future."

"She was off to meet her congresswoman, someone she was sure was good and important and might be a role model. She saw all this through the eyes of a child, undimmed by the cynicism or vitriol that we adults all too often just take for granted," Obama said.

"I want to live up to her expectations. I want our democracy to be as good as Christina imagined it. I want America to be as good as she imagined it. All of us -- we should do everything we can to make sure this country lives up to our children's expectations."

Obama's "cool again" pledge was one of the most aspirational of his campaign. Speaking about the topic in New York on Sept. 11, 2008 -- Green's 7th birthday -- he urged young Americans to join him in "transforming Washington."

"We want you to get involved at every level," he said. "And by the way, you don't even have to join government. Part of what we're going to do is create transparency and accountability in how government works so that you can be an active citizen holding your public servants and elected officials accountable. That's one other aspect of citizenship is paying attention to what's taking place."

It's the kind of campaign pledge that's hard to measure, but academics, federal union leaders and members of the rank and file -- worried about the impending brain drain of aging public servants -- considered Obama's goal key to recruiting the next generation of public leaders.

Since taking office Obama -- facing economic crises, two wars and other domestic priorities -- has spent little time discussing the merits of public service, or using his presidential bully pulpit to make a recruitment pitch to young job seekers (a point noted as recently as last weekend by some close observers). He has however spoken several times -- following the Ft. Hood massacre and at the University of Michigan commencement ceremony last May -- about the need for a more civil political discourse.

But on Wednesday he returned to the "cool again" pledge, recasting it by suggesting the government's "coolness" factor should include being noble, setting a good example and remembering that the work done today can inspire future generations, just as it was starting to inspire Christina.

He also reminded the general public that participating in government through public forums including Rep. Gabrielle Giffords's "Congress on Your Corner" -- "just an updated version of government of and by and for the people," as Obama described it -- is equally noble.

The clarion call came at a time of mourning -- and many may forget it by next week -- but it was an important reminder and reset for our public discourse and the mission of public servants.

Leave your thoughts in the comments section below

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By Ed O'Keefe  | January 13, 2011; 7:00 AM ET
Categories:  Eye Opener  
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Next: Where do federal workers live and work?


Obama can't make government look "cool" again while he also froze government pay for two years and now is remaining completely silent in the face of congress calling for a huge reduction of Federal employees. And in the face of Obama's plan to shred Social Security benefits, I also fully expect him to do the same to Federal retiree benefits.

In other words - I think he is talking out of both sides of his mouth.

Posted by: solsticebelle | January 13, 2011 10:02 AM | Report abuse

While I agree that the federal pay freeze is not the best for me and my fellow government employees, I realize that ALL Americans will have to sacrifice something over the next two years. For some, it may mean reduced benefits. For some, higher taxes. My only desire is to have our nation strong again fiscally, and as long as everyone is making sacrifices, I'll be satisfied.

Posted by: c_attucks | January 13, 2011 10:13 AM | Report abuse

It should be an honor to work for The Obama, regardless of pay.

Posted by: getjiggly1 | January 13, 2011 11:13 AM | Report abuse

"Cool again?" Really???? That's important to you or to anyone? Maybe its "cool" for 18-yr. olds who voted for him? Really!
Its NOT cool that the Illinois governor increased Income taxes 66%!
Its NOT cool that the Illinois governor
increased Corporate Taxes 45%
Its NOT gonna be cool at all, when residents and businesses in Illinois move Out of that state, either!
Its NOT cool that ObamaCare will only Increase our healthcare costs!
Its NOT cool that union pensions and healthcare costs are claimed to be the reason Illinois is in the Mess its in!

Posted by: ohioan | January 13, 2011 12:36 PM | Report abuse

I am by no means a fan of Obama, but yesterday he proved he is Presidential, while Sarah Palin proved that she most definitely is NOT. Any hope of her winning against him in 2012 is gone, and the GOP had better get off their collective behinds and find a new candidate to groom, QUICK. The less her name is mentioned between now and November 2012, the better their chances will be.

Posted by: thomasmc1957 | January 13, 2011 12:55 PM | Report abuse

@ ohioan...

All states have the same issues. With your nic, why are you worried about IL when you are OH?

However, the article is about WORKING FOR THE FED GOVT TO BE "Cool again"... now their laws or regs... THAT is Congress Bozo! Point the finger at them, not the state, the services or the worker!

Posted by: darbyohara | January 14, 2011 6:24 AM | Report abuse

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