Today, on the momentous occasion of his swearing-in as our 44th president, Barack ObamaBarack Hussein ObamaSenator Tom Coburn's government oversight legacy Biden could be picking the next president: VP choice more important than ever Civil rights leader Joseph Lowery dies at 98 MORE summoned us to a new era of responsibility — personal responsibility in which we each stand up for the old values that have made our country great, to face the nation's new challenges and make America great again.

Those values are honesty, hard work, courage, tolerance, loyalty and patriotism, and Obama implored us to turn to them as we face down the difficult days, months and years ahead. These values, he said, are old and true and "have been the quiet force of progress throughout our history," and will help us fulfill our duties to ourselves, our nation and the world. Fulfilling our responsibilities, Obama said, is the "price and promise of citizenship."

This is far more bold than it sounds. Obama is asking us to change our ways, to change ourselves, in order to help him change the country. He began sounding these themes over the weekend when he called for a new declaration of independence — "not just in our nation, but in our own lives — from ideology and small thinking, prejudice and bigotry — an appeal not to our easy instincts but to our better angels."

In all the pageantry, it is hard to tell just who was listening to the sober message amid the intense excitement of the day. Getting people to change, to declare independence from their old habits and self-directed lives, will be a tough sell. Time will tell if change is truly coming from the bottom up, but Obama was right to ask for it.


WILL AMERICANS HEED OBAMA'S CALL TO ACTION? Ask A.B. returns Monday, Jan. 26. Please join my weekly video Q & A by sending your questions and comments to askab@thehill.com. Thank you.