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Change starts Tuesday

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President-elect Barack Obama is inviting the nation to participate in the Inauguration festivities surrounding his swearing-in as President on January 20.

The subject of change and revitalizing American participatory democracy are clearly evident in the address. These themes manifest themselves through particular phrases, some of the most important of which are discussed below:

  • Obama’s opening words “But this inauguration is not about me. It’s about all of us.” This tone speaks volumes about the spirit of inclusiveness and dialog his administration is seeking to create. It’s this openness to participatory democracy that clinched him the nomination and the election. President-elect Obama serves at the pleasure of the American people and it’s this realization and acknowledgment that is invigorating and refreshing. It provides a platform for greater civic engagement and hope throughout the next 4 years.
  • ‘We’ve made this inauguration open and accessible to communities across our nation. Just text the word ‘OPEN’ to 56333 for news, transportation updates and ways you can participate.’ Events leading up to the inauguration are being broadcast on major channels HBO, Disney, ABC and the internet. In order for those who cannot attend events in Washington President-elect Obama directs people to pic2009.org, where they can sign up to host their own neighborhood ball at home. Allowing everyone to engage in the inauguration celebration as a collective event is a powerful way of conveying a sense of unity throughout the nation.
  • But that’s just the beginning of ways you can get involved.’ He goes on to ask for the active participation of all Americans. It’s Martin Luther King Jnr. day on Monday 19th and ‘to honor a the legacy of a man who lived his life as a servant to others’ he asks all Americans to make a ‘renewed commitment to serving their communities and their country’. He goes on to emphasize that anyone can contribute something to the ‘life of the nation’ and asks all Americans to participate in volunteering through visiting usaservice.org to find service projects or organize their own.

Continuing service

‘I’m not asking you to take part in one day of service. I’m asking you to make a lasting commitment to make better the lives of your fellow Americans. A commitment that must endure beyond one day or even on presidency…I’m asking you to play your part and roll up your sleeves and join in the work of remaking this nation. And if you do I truly believe a new and better day is within our reach.’

This service can manifest itself in many ways, and the Obama administration is employing Web 2.0 tools to engage Americans in a new form of participatory democracy. These tools were successfully used throughout the campaign to allow for greater public engagement and organization. The Transition team has also used these tools to solicit ideas and comments around policy questions though change.gov.

This engagement and request for participation is not stopping on Tuesday, however, rather it’s going to be incorporated into the Administration itself. The Citizen’s Briefing Book will be used to collect ideas and suggestions to go directly to President Obama.

I will open the doors of Government and ask you to be involved in your democracy again – President-elect Barack Obama

Expectations for the Obama administration are high. Only by harnessing the potential of the American people, and changing Government/Citizen engagement model will the ‘new and better day’ he seeks come to fruition. The sentiments expressed above along with the overall theme of the transition are refreshing. The concept of open and inclusive change is invigorating to those seeking a revitalized and engaged democracy.

Can President-elect Obama create this? No. Can we do it? Yes we can.

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