Presidents since Lincoln have urged us to follow
our “better angels.” Now Barack Obama’s call for
national service is inspiring a new era of people
helping people BY PATRICIA J. WILLIAMS
If the Stars and Stripes are the truest symbol of national pride, then patriotism seems to be flying high. You can feel it as much as see it. At coffee bars in Seattle, in
midwestern farm communities, on college campuses, in New York City subways, Americans from all walks of life—old, young, white, black, Republican and Democratic—are
fervently, happily, waving the flag, both literally and figuratively, and bursting
with a renewed spirit that is helping redefine what it means to be a patriot.
It’s a zeal that celebrates more than just symbols: these days Americans
are rallying to make citizenship a participatory sport.
It is a welcome shift in mood. After years during which the flag—
indeed patriotism itself—has been used as a polarizing line in the
political sand, the country seems to have entered an era of energetic
involvement in our collective fate. Fueled in part by President Barack
Obama’s resonant and reiterated call to service, the melting pot of our
citizenry is rethinking the matter of our social contract—seeing in it a
vehicle for cooperation, a link that allows us to combine our human capital and
reinforce the strengths we have in common.
Volunteerism at food banks has risen. Donations to blood banks are up. And interest
Find out what you can
do on September 11,
the National Day of
Remembrance. Go to
ILLUSTRATIONS AND HEADLINE TYPOGRAPH Y BY DAVID COWLES