For much of the Obama administration’s time in office, political rivals have been baffled as to how President Obama successfully won two terms in office. Through their rhetoric, they have attempted to instill fear in the hearts of voters. The fear they want to resonate is a fear that the United States is moving away from the ideal of the American Dream, the mythical idea that the only barrier between poverty and success is an individual’s desire to work. While there is a nice sentiment to individuality, and working hard in order to achieve different levels of success, this ideal has never been realistic at any point in the history of the United States as a means for the many to become prosperous. But, although President Obama has presented a very significant message (one which detractors claim is significantly different from anything the United States has ever seen), his message is very common throughout the history of the United States. Time and time again, the American people display attitudes that reflect their desire to work together, because the foundation of society is strongly set in the ability of citizens to work together in order to achieve goals. Civic republicanism, not individualism, has formed the basis for American society. It is the most integral part of American life, but politicians who preach the necessity of “pulling yourself up by your bootstraps,” and warn that collective action in order to solve problems will lead to the eventual downfall of the United States have diminished the importance of civic republicanism in the past two decades. But, in order to properly understand the civic republicanism of the American people, it is necessary to look towards the policies/attitudes of the most prominent historical figures of the United States, and then to examine the very message provided by President Obama.
The historical scope of this discussion should be limited to the 20th century of the United States, as many volumes can be filled regarding the republican ideals commonly held by the founders and revolutionaries, and many brilliant men and women during the 19th century as the United States was thrown into internal turmoil. But, the 20th century in the United States saw the prominence of many social policies born out of republican thought that still hold a crucial place in a modern context. Beginning with President Franklin Roosevelt’s (FDR) time as Commander in Chief, one must looks towards the climate of the United States during the Second World War. The federal government, and many others, successfully created a sense of civic duty within each American citizen in order to achieve the goal of defeating the Axis powers. This civic duty was only possible through the efforts of all citizens collectively contributing towards the war efforts in a variety of different ways. Propaganda was developed in order to push Americans towards the war effort, and most of this propaganda still holds a prominent, or symbolic, place in American culture. The attitudes regarding Americans working collectively throughout the Second World War, and the efforts immediately after the war to expand prosperity to a larger share of the population are still fresh in the memory of many. It has become an integral piece of having pride for the United States, and holds us close to our republican roots.
Another glowing example of the prominence of republican values can be seen through the inaugural address of President Kennedy in 1960, one of the most important speeches in the history of the United States. As the “threat” of communism continued to expand, Kennedy called upon all Americans to come together in order to set an example for the world, an example of how to defeat evil. Even further, after President Kennedy’s assassination, Lyndon Johnson’s infamous State of the Union marking the beginning of the so-called “War on Poverty,” placed a special emphasis of the need for a full national effort in order to help all citizens. This rhetoric has become highly important to the very ethos of American society, and attempts to inspire collective action in order to fight the ills of society.
Finally, the Obama administration, has inherited this message of civic duty that has seen prominence throughout the history of the United States, and tried to expand upon it. Since the previous examples have been based in some type of rhetoric used by past American figures, one must next look towards President Obama’s second inaugural address. Throughout the address, Obama appeals to a communal feeling among Americans, and continually underscores the importance of “we” in American society. Without “we,” the United States could never have addressed times of turmoil. Because of “we,” the United States became the most important superpower in the world. So, in totality, it is important to recognize the importance of civic republicanism in American society. It makes the United States great, and allows for continual growth and progress.