An Open Letter to the President

The Road Not Taken:
A Letter to President Obama
from a Concerned Democrat,
and a Concerned Citizen

Jonathan Cloud (Publisher)

Jonathan Cloud (Publisher)

Dear Mr. President:

I write out of deep concern as to the state of our nation today.

I believe that in the year since your inauguration, an important opportunity has been missed to unify and mobilize the American people in the service of their highest ideals.

I acknowledge the many pressures and challenges that have been thrust upon you by circumstances, and I applaud you for the intelligent and courageous actions you have taken. Your actions have, as almost all economists now recognize, averted an outright collapse of the financial system. And this is but one of many remarkable accomplishments, not the least of which has been changing the tone around America’s role in the world.

But as you yourself must know, it is not enough. The challenges we face as a people and as a species, call for a greater response, one that the apparatus of government alone cannot accomplish. It calls for a fundamental shift in our way of being, as individuals, as nations, and as global cultures.

The desperate suffering of a great many – perhaps even a majority – of Americans has not been alleviated. Many millions are out of work, losing their homes and their health care and their sense of opportunity. Many others are just striving to avoid this fate. Discontent, discord, and division are on the rise. Around the world the problems we face remain the same.

What has been missed is any massive call to service, to contribute, to take concerted action, on behalf of peace, prosperity, and harmony with our environment.

It is not too late to do this. You need to speak out, and put in place an effort to engage a majority of citizens on the side of positive change – in neighborhoods, in communities, and in organizations at every level.

This was the basis for your campaign. It must now become the basis for your presidency.

Let me be specific. What I am calling for is not “Organizing for America,” which has failed to capture the imaginations of the millions who supported you. I know, because I am one of them. What we have been waiting for is a call to action.

The issues of health care, of energy and the environment, and of sustainable economic well being, are too important to be derailed by politics. You have become a captive of the mindset of governing. But you must not allow the process in Washington to dictate the outcomes – you must appeal directly to the American people to take up the challenge to restore, rebuild, reinvent, and rededicate themselves to true greatness, which is serving your neighbor.

As a community organizer you should truly understand this. It is what the people do for themselves that matters, and that is alone capable of bringing about a fundamental change. The sort of change you have spoken of many times, change that we can truly believe in.

This is what has been missing from your first year in office. You have not tried to do too much; rather, what you have asked from us is too little. To stand in line at the unemployment office. To wait for the economy to turn around. To wait for health care coverage, for better education, for credit to return.

The present situation is barely tolerable, and for some time has already run out, on their homes, their health, their children. But we can’t go back to the way things were. We need to build a new world, a sustainable world, a world of peace and justice, and of opportunity to continue to grow and change.

You can lead this effort. Or you can “react” to events and continue to lose the hope and the trust of the American people. Those on the far right will continue to take advantage of your weakness. Those on the left will continue to support you warily. But those in the vast middle will continue to drift away and lose faith in the possibility you once represented for them.

I don’t believe you can do this as simply another political campaign. It must be a campaign of the heart, of the mind, and of the spirit. Your words must mean something. The vision you offer must be greater than ever, for “without vision the people perish.”

I am writing not only to you, but also to my fellow citizens. We bear the ultimate responsibility. One of the things I hear frequently is the comparison to FDR, who famously told people to “make him do things” that were in the best interest of the people. Our problem is almost the opposite: we need a President who will inspire us to action.

Many of us reacted with disgust when, in the wake of 9/11, George Bush told us to go shopping; and then further debased and degraded that tragedy through war, torture, and judicial terrorism. We the American people are better than that – though you might not always think so when you listen to the teabaggers and the know-nothings and the right-wing agitators. But many more of us are decent, thoughtful, and compassionate individuals, whose greatest desire is to contribute to others and to serve a noble cause.

You must act now to articulate this for us. And we must also begin to articulate for ourselves. I say to you, Mr. President, give us truly a possibility we can believe in. And I say to my fellow Americans, now is the time to speak up, and let your voices be heard, in your demand and your commitment to a better world for everyone.

I am writing this on the eve of the State of the Union. I hope to hear some of this spirit reflected in the speech, but I fear that it will not be.

  1. #1 by Bill Allen on Wednesday, January 27, 2010 - 12:11 am

    Letter above is excellent. Let’s explore what our local Democrats can do to persuade President Obama to do what you propose and then help him do it.
    Bill Allen, 01-26-10

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