Over the past 3 days, the Democrats sought to lay out a stark choice between President Obama and Governor Romney. As I listened, there were “choices” that begged for more attention, and which need to be addressed as the campaign unfolds over the next 60 days.
- Obligation to one another: The president introduced the idea of ‘citizenship’ in his speech, not something often talked about anymore. He infused this (and other parts) of his speech with asserting that Americans “cannot go it alone” and that people have an “obligation” to one another. These were all good steps forward. But the president did not call on people to do anything specific – as is laid out in The Work of Hope. What does he have in mind?
- Focus on ‘tough challenges’: The Democrats said they would focus on the ‘tough challenges’ the nation faces. At issue here is, what exactly are these challenges, and what are the REAL choices that need to be made, what trade-offs are involved, and what sacrifices? Absent from the speeches were any implications for Americans – everything seemed to come free of cost (other than the wealthy paying more taxes).
- ‘Cooperation’: President Clinton spoke eloquently about this on Wednesday night, and President Obama alluded to it as well. Surely, these times do not lend themselves to ‘cooperation.’ And yet, how will cooperation be engendered given current conditions; where are places where cooperation can begin, even in small steps? Talking about ‘cooperation’ without signs of progress will merely add to people’s sense that nothing can change for the better.
- ‘Be the change’: Over and again President Obama called upon Americans to ‘be the change.’ This coincides with what we reveal in The Work of Hope. But exactly what does ‘be the change’ mean? My sense is such change needs to be generated within our communities by people themselves; still, what is the vision here? How does it lead to a better society? How does it help to focus us on the common good?
- ‘Hope’: The President (and others) spoke about notions of ‘hope.’ The president sought to remind people about the meaning of hope – that it’s not blind optimism, and it takes time. Fair enough. But given people’s frustrations nowadays, their lack of a sense of possibility, both candidates will need to take great care in whether they are speaking to false hope or authentic hope. Simply winning the election cannot be the only test: whether authentic hope is the rule of road must be a key test.
Last week, in my ‘morning after’ post after the Republican Convention, I said that I would continue to raise issues and questions like these throughout the remainder of this campaign season, and then beyond. My goal is to help insert underlying concerns and aspirations that Americans are wrestling with, and which deserve our attention. Now is not the time to give way on these matters.
Let’s join together in doing this. Let me know your thoughts.