President Barack Obama won re-election yesterday night. I think both him and Mitt Romney gave good speeches after the fact, especially Mitt, who showed a humble love of his country and a genuine grace in defeat.
Both men spoke of compromise, bi-partisan action, and coming together on all levels. This is a common lip-service that politicians give after an election, but still it’s nice to hear to someone like me who hasn’t yet grown too cynical with the political process. I still believe red and blue can work together to get something done, even if it’s a small fraction of what they promised in the campaign.
I would like to highlight two parts of Obama’s acceptance speech:
In the coming weeks and months, I am looking forward to reaching out and working with leaders of both parties to meet the challenges we can only solve together. Reducing our deficit. Reforming our tax code. Fixing our immigration system. Freeing ourselves from foreign oil.
He then continued with a call to action that had a funny effect of promptly silencing the applause:
Weâ€™ve got more work to do. The role of citizens in our Democracy does not end with your vote. Americaâ€™s never been about what can be done for us. Itâ€™s about what can be done by us together through the hard and frustrating, but necessary work of self-government. Thatâ€™s the principle we were founded on.
These are empty words if they fall on closed ears. It’s a reminder once again that the president is powerless except in the degree to which he can inspire the American people to action. Whatever your views are on the tax code or other issues, you need to ground those views in concrete ideals, and live your life in every way according to those ideals. That’s what I think he means by self-government. Your voice will reverberate only if it’s backed by an exemplary productive life.