It has now been couple of days since the re-election of President Obama and I have been listening intently to the many pundits sharing their theories and opinions about why Governor Romney did not win. I resonate with some of the rationalizations because they are accompanied with an intentional inquiry about the learnings they are trying to gleam from this election. Others are merely revealing their cognitive bias about why they should have won…..we were better! But what have l learned? Well…a new word….self-government. This word might prove to be powerful if taken to heart by both the winners and losers of the many elections held around the country.
I always say that everyone listens to same radio station…WIIFM… “What is in for me?” However, in his election night speech, Obama reminded us that “we are greater than the sum of our individual ambitions.” He went on to say that “America's never been about what can be done for us. It's about what can be done by us together through the hard and frustrating, but necessary work of self-government.” I noticed that he also used the word “self-government” in his earlier speech at the Democratic convention.
So what is self-government? Self-government is defined as “the rule of a state, community or other group by its members.” So, why self-government and why would President Obama feel the need to remind us?
I would suggest that President Obama was re-issuing an invitation to each of us (regardless of party affiliation) to take our responsibility as citizens seriously. He may be the re-elected president but was not given a magic wand. We also live in this country and have responsibilities. I used to think we sometimes take for granted the rights and privileges that come along with citizenship. However, as I watched citizens around the country stand in line for long hours waiting to vote, I realized that we are indeed “a sum greater than our individual ambitions” and most of us do take the rights and privileges of citizenship seriously. But, our responsibility goes beyond standing in line to vote!
It is our continuing to work for what we have voted for….continuing to let our voice be heard that will make self-government a reality regardless of how frustrating or maddening it may become to pursue what is right and just not a few of us but for all of us. And remember that although most of the attention has been on the national election, almost all politics are local! Therefore, we are also responsible for getting involved. Are you satisfied with the quality education in your community? Are you satisfied with the quality of healthcare delivered in your community? Are you satisfied with the quality of safety and security in your community?
In this age of increasing anxiety associated with real and perceived threats, unrelenting change and unpredictability, and increasing polarization, we need to think about what it means to be a responsible citizen….in our community, in our workplace, in our society. Along with the rights and privileges of citizenship, what are our obligations to make sure that this communities not only survives but thrives?