Obama recasts his 'cool again' pledge
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.
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| January 13, 2011; 7:00 AM ET
Categories: Eye Opener
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