Cities and citizenship

Posted by on Jan 22, 2013

I am inspired by President Obama’s Inaugural Address to give some thought to the relationship between cities and citizens.  The President calls on us as “citizens” several times in his speech.  The notion of citizen is now generalized to include all who have legal residency in a country.  As the President said, “My oath is not so different from the pledge we all make to the flag that waves above and that fills our hearts with pride.” But of course a citizen was first of all an inhabitant of a city.  Those who live in cities know well the challenges of citizenship and the rewards.  Every day the city we live in challenges us to remain civil and responsible human beings even when in extremely stressful situations – and they happen routinely – we are tempted to lose our cool.  But we don’t, not usually.  We hang on because it’s part of the social contract about how to live in a city.  We know it’s essential.  That’s why we can understand what the President means when he talks about having an obligation to defend “our most ancient values and enduring ideals.”  That’s a bit of what we do every day.  Just now, my fellow citizens, we need to up our game.

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