Ask More of Us, Mr. President

By Thomas, Louisa | Newsweek, February 1, 2010 | Go to article overview
Save to active project

Ask More of Us, Mr. President


Thomas, Louisa, Newsweek


Byline: Louisa Thomas

The man who mobilized a generation must now issue marching orders.

I watched President Obama's inauguration on my laptop, sharing a pair of earphones with a friend--one bud in my right ear, the other in her left. Like so many people, those who had voted for Obama and those who hadn't, we had great expectations that day. Never in my lifetime (I was 27) had public service had such allure (the ratio of applicants to available positions in the administration was rumored to be a hundred to one). Yet even as we watched the video staggering over the faulty wireless connection, my friend and I warned each other that our hopes for the new administration were too high. Obama was inheriting two botched wars, an amorphous and ever-present terrorist threat, and the worst economic crisis in decades. It does not surprise me that we asked too much of him in his first year. What does surprise me is that Obama did not ask enough of us.

At some point in the past 30 or 40 years, politicians lost the nerve to ask much of people. I am not sure how we got from Kennedy's "ask not" to a political culture where the word "tax" has become a hex but "benefit" a self-evident right. No politician wants to admit that real reform requires real sacrifice. Obama promised to be different, and in important ways he is. He has conducted himself with dignity, intelligence, and sympathy while staving off another Great Depression and keeping the lid, so far, on potential eruptions around the world. He has shown us that he is a good listener and reasonable, unlike so many of his detractors. But, like most politicians, he appears to assume that the public is incapable or unwilling to take on the challenges that real reform demands. He wants to expand health care to 30 million Americans but reassures people that he won't touch theirs. He proposes withdrawing from Afghanistan by increasing troop levels. It's no wonder that people suspect the government is not being honest, or that there is so much voter anger.

Obama's younger supporters are not angry so much as disappointed. During his campaign he mobilized a generation that had been distinguished by apathy, but he has not capitalized on the energy, desire, and will of all those people who came to Washington to witness his oath of office, or who talked--as my friend and I did that day--about connecting their ambitions to the public good.

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
Loading One moment ...
Project items
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited article

Ask More of Us, Mr. President
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

While we understand printed pages are helpful to our users, this limitation is necessary to help protect our publishers' copyrighted material and prevent its unlawful distribution. We are sorry for any inconvenience.
Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.

Are you sure you want to delete this highlight?