Has the President Read This Blog?

Ok, yes, I know that’s unlikely, especially considering my dearth of posts lately. But after listening to his speech tonight (while proctoring a final exam for my students), I noticed this first part of James Fallows’ assessment:


1) Citizen Obama. The most interesting “new”-ish approach in the speech was the theme that ran through the final one-third of it, about the importance and implications of “citizenship.” Viz:

As Americans, we believe we are endowed by our Creator with certain inalienable rights – rights that no man or government can take away. We insist on personal responsibility and we celebrate individual initiative. We’re not entitled to success. We have to earn it. We honor the strivers, the dreamers, the risk-takers who have always been the driving force behind our free enterprise system – the greatest engine of growth and prosperity the world has ever known. [That is: we are for individuals, and for success. And now the pivot:]

But we also believe in something called citizenship – a word at the very heart of our founding, at the very essence of our democracy; the idea that this country only works when we accept certain obligations to one another, and to future generations. [And on to explain the ramifications.]

The reason this is interesting: It is a way to deal with the out-of-context “you didn’t build that”  meme not by (1) matching its out-of-context-ness, with an offsetting “like to fire people” theme (as some DNC speakers did); nor (2) directly making the case for the value of public/private interactions, as Bill Clinton effectively did last night, but (3) attempting to change the terrain, or the game, with a new definition of terms. More later on the implications, but a very interesting re-casting of the debate.


I’ll have to go back and look at the text of the speech more carefully, but this recasting “capitalism” and “citizenship” as two parts of a core pair of what the United States stands for sounds very much like what I set out to do here. No wonder I continue to like Obama so much, despite the struggles he’s had in accomplishing what I’d like to see happen.

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