John McCainJohn Sidney McCainMichelle Obama weighs in on Trump, 'Squad' feud: 'Not my America or your America. It's our America' Meghan McCain shares story of miscarriage Media cried wolf: Calling every Republican a racist lost its bite MORE and Barack ObamaBarack Hussein ObamaMichelle Obama weighs in on Trump, 'Squad' feud: 'Not my America or your America. It's our America' Media cried wolf: Calling every Republican a racist lost its bite Rubio criticizes reporters, Democrat for racism accusations against McCain MORE each talked for an hour last night in a wholly appropriate and inspiring evening of television on the idea of service.

Both senators seemed at ease with the questions even though they many of them were fairly conceptual. Neither seemed to be answering the questions as though it was an opportunity to score a political point, recite a talking point, or appeal to a specific constituency. It was a welcome respite from the hyper-partisan tone of the past few weeks. A lot of credit goes to Judy Woodruff and Richard Stengel for maintaining the dignity of the day and the event.

Both candidates spoke about service with an earnestness that reflected their own personal experience with service. It was obvious that either an Obama or a McCain administration will give a greater priority to service than the Bush administration (they both also remarked that it was a disappointment that President Bush didn’t ask more of citizens after Sept. 11, 2001).

My hope is that whoever is elected president will take seriously the ideal of what obligations citizens have to each other in a republic. America does not need citizens to be full-time community organizers, or permanent soldiers, but it does need citizens to understand that freedom in a republic is not merely defined by our rights, but also our obligations.

President Obama or McCain should seek to reclaim American citizenship in the spirit of our founding identity, which stressed the importance of active participation in democracy and concern for the common good, as expressed through public virtue. Too often, citizenship has been understood and promoted in a narrow way that produces citizens who merely look for what they can gain from the government (as the Interior Department proved this week).


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