“Yes we did!” …what exactly?

I’ve noticed that many of President Elect Obama’s supporters are going around saying, “Yes we did!” To that I have a simple response: No, no you didn’t!

Now, I’m not saying that you didn’t get Barack Obama elected. I’m not saying you didn’t overcome odds and break through racial barriers. I’m not saying you didn’t put the McCain-Palin campaign exactly where it belonged: In the loser’s circle. No, I’m certainly not saying that something great hasn’t been accomplished.

What I’m saying is that the challenge of Sen. Obama’s famous New Hampshire Primary Concession Speech given on January 8, 2008 has in no way been even slightly fulfilled yet. What I’m saying is that when Barack Obama said, “Yes we can!” that day, he was challenging all of us to do something – and that something was not to simply vote for him.

“It is not just about what I will do as President. It is also about what you, the people who love this country, the citizens of the United States of America can do to change it.”

President Elect Obama’s speech was not about the simple act of putting a check mark by his name when you vote. It was about so much more than that! President Elect Obama wasn’t challenging the American people to go out and get him elected President so that he could take the reigns and fix all our problems from that point on. President Elect Obama’s speech was the admission that he alone could not accomplish the Change that Americans want so badly. He was challenging us, the American people, to get started and work on bring about that change ourselves!

I am very disheartened when I see how worked up people get about voting. I am not saying the freedom to choose our own leaders is not a wonderful thing. It is a privilege, nay, the fundamental human right, as Thomas Jefferson argued in the Declaration of Independence, and the fact that we live in a country which honors and protects that right is certainly something for which to be grateful.

I am disheartened when I see how worked up people get about voting because that is often the beginning and the end of their civic engagement. Of all freedoms we have in this great nation, of all the things we, the American people are empowered to do to make our world a better place, the act of voting requires probably the least amount of effort, and has one of the lowest amounts of impact on our society.

It is sad that people get it in their heads, “Well, I campaigned; I voted; My guy won; We accomplished our mission; Yes we did.” Is this really where it ends, my brothers and sisters in freedom? Do you honestly think that just because the person you supported for President of the United States has won his election that you have accomplished something so great, so profound that you can go back to your normal everyday life and leave the rest up to him?

President Elect Barack Obama doesn’t think so. As I sat and listened to the speeches, the debates, and more speeches, I have been quite amazed and moved by one simple thing that Senator Obama offered: It doesn’t matter who is elected President if we don’t start mobilizing ourselves – not to vote – to get involved in our communities, to get involved in local politics, to get involved in someone’s life, to fight for real incremental changes, to fight injustices wherever we see them instead of comfortably and passively walking by and turning the other way.

THAT was the challenge that was issued to the American people on January 8, 2008. That is the challenge that we can meet with the simple credo, “Yes we can.” And that is the challenge that we have only begun to work on, and are nowhere near able to answer with the words, “Yes we did.”

So, the next time you feel tempted to put up a sign or wear a t-shirt, or change your status on Facebook or shout those words: “Yes we did,” I hope you take pause. I hope you take pause and think about what it was President Elect Obama was really asking of us to do, and I hope you realize that just because you got the good man elected, you haven’t actually done anything yet!

This is not the end of our journey and the beginning of a President Obama’s journey.

For President Elect Barack Obama, his journey, which began many years ago, continues. Our journey… our journey has barely even begun, and is nowhere near finished.

I leave you with a few short clips and quotes from the “Yes We Can” speech. I hope you take those words to heart and remember that none of this has yet been actually accomplished:

“We can disagree without being disagreeable.”

“If we challenge ourselves to reach for something better: there is no problem we cannot solve, there is no destiny we cannot fulfill.”

“We can end the tax breaks for corporations that ship our jobs overseas.”

“We can stop sending our children to schools that are corridors of shame and start putting them on pathways to success.”

“We can stop talking about how great our teachers are and start rewarding them for their greatness by giving them more pay and more support.”

“We can harness ingenuity… to free this nation from the tyranny of oil.”

“When I am President of the United States, we will end this war in Iraq and bring our troops home. We will finish the job against al Qaeda and Afghanistan. We will care for our veterans. We will restore our moral standing in the world.”

It is time to roll up our sleeves and get to work…

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