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The active duties of citizenship

Published: November 9, 2012
Section: Editorials


After billions of dollars in advertising blitzes, thousands of miles crisscrossing the country for stump speeches and newspapers dominated by partisan headlines, when the TV networks began to call the final swing states late Tuesday evening, the nearly two-year presidential campaign of 2012 came to a close.

And in the early morning hours, as Democrats rejoiced in victory and Republicans awoke to the reality that the party alienating Hispanics, women and young people, among others, could not win the support of the American people, Governor Romney and President Obama took their respective stages in Boston and Chicago to deliver speeches, speaking to families exhausted but still gazing at the television sets in their living rooms.

In a political campaign dominated by choice between Democrat and Republican, left and right, and attempts to portray the contest as one between candidates catering to wealthy or middle-class Americans, the speeches early Wednesday morning struck a different tone.

Romney, displaying grace, sincerity and patriotism, just minutes after suffering a defeat to his presidential aspirations that began years ago, explained the calling to all Americans, not the twisted political messaging that dominated his campaign.

“And we citizens also have to rise to the occasion. We look to our teachers and professors, we count on you not just to teach, but to inspire our children with a passion for learning and discovery,” Romney said from his campaign headquarters in Boston. “We look to our pastors and priests and rabbis and counselors of all kinds to testify of the enduring principles upon which our society is built: honesty, charity, integrity and family. We look to our parents, for in the final analysis everything depends on the success of our homes.”

As Romney said, ultimately, people from all backgrounds and walks of life, not elected officials, determine the effectiveness of our government. His call to educational and spiritual leaders and parents was genuine. And in all communities, including at this university, it holds true today.

Speaking shortly after, the president echoed a similar tone of citizenship and patriotism over political partisanship.

“The role of citizen in our democracy does not end with your vote. America’s never been about what can be done for us,” he said before the thousands of supporters rallied in Chicago. “It’s about what can be done by us together through the hard and frustrating, but necessary work of self-government. That’s the principle we were founded on.”

Regardless of who you voted for, the words Obama and Romney spoke on Wednesday must now fill our conversations about the relationship between government and citizenship. And here at Brandeis, students have a vital role to play in shaping a national political discourse built around service to our community and service to the public. For now, we have seen enough political campaigning. The time for governing and active citizenship, has arrived.