Barack Obama is not the only one being inaugurated on January 20th. We all are.
And that's not just because Obama has promised to make a call to service "a central cause" of his presidency. It's because this moment in history demands that we stop waiting on others -- especially others living in Washington D.C. -- to solve the problems and right the wrongs of our times. Now, more than ever, we must mine the most underutilized resource available to us: ourselves.
The night before Obama is sworn in, HuffPost is co-hosting a pre-Inaugural ball at the Newseum in Washington. Just before midnight we are going to have a Countdown to a New Era. It's a new era not just because the Bush Years will officially be over, and not just because Barack Obama will be president, but because taking on the challenges America is facing will require a new era of citizen responsibility and engagement.
To illustrate this we are putting together a video (produced by Philip de Vellis, creator of the Think Different/Hillary 1984 ad, and a media strategist at Murphy Putnam Media) that will symbolize that we are all stakeholders -- all being inaugurated on January 20th -- by having people from across America send us video of themselves taking the presidential oath of office: "I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will faithfully execute the office of President of the United States, and will to the best of my ability, preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States."
The preamble of the Constitution starts with We the People. And it has never been clearer than it is now that we can't "form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity" without the active participation of millions of us. It is not just the Bush Years that should be over on January 20th, but also the expectation that a knight in shining armor will ride into town and save us while we cheer from the sidelines. Even if the knight is brilliant, charismatic, and inspiring. It's up to us -- We the People.
And Obama himself has said as much many times throughout the campaign. He asked Americans "to step into the strong currents of history, and to shape your country's future. Because your own story and the American story are not separate, they are shared. And they will both be enriched if together, we answer a new call to service to meet the challenges of our new century."
(You can find suggestions for making your Oath Video and details on how to submit it at the end of this post.)
We can answer that call to public service in many ways -- by mentoring a child, working in a soup kitchen, picking up trash in your neighborhood park, or by acting as a citizen watchdog, making sure our government is transparent and beholden only to the people (and this includes finding out what happens to our bailout money).
Fifteen years ago, I wrote a book -- The Fourth Instinct -- about the instinct that compels us all to go beyond our impulses for survival, sex, and power, and drives us to expand the boundaries of our caring beyond our solitary selves to include our families and friends, our communities, our world.
In a study on the roots of altruism, psychologist Dr. Ervin Staub, analyzed men and women who had risked their lives during WWII to protect Jews hiding from the Nazis. "Goodness," he wrote, "like evil, often begins in small steps."
Small steps that frequently lead to much larger commitments -- and can have ever-widening positive reverberations through our communities.
We intend to make these small steps -- and larger commitments -- a central focus of HuffPost, covering and highlighting what people are doing all across America to meet our country's unmet needs. They are also going to be the central focus of our DC event -- and we want you to be a big part of it.
For starters, we'd like you to make a pledge to some kind of service (you can explore ways to get involved at the sites of three of our pre-Inaugural party partners, Service Nation, Kenneth Cole's Awearness, and Causecast) and tell us what your pledge is in the comments section below. We will feature your pledges in an upcoming post -- and in a scroll rolling across a giant video screen on the night of the party. After leaving your pledge in the comments section, please also sign Service Nation's Declaration of Service.
And if you are already serving -- or start between now and the Inauguration -- we'd love for you to send us photos and/or video of what you are doing to make a difference. We will also feature these on the site and at the Newseum the night of January 19th. Post your videos on YouTube and your photos on Flickr, then leave the url in the comments section of this post (be sure to tag your videos/photos "HuffPost Service").
Do the same with the videos of you taking the presidential oath: post them on YouTube or Vimeo and put the url in the comments section of this post (tag these videos "HuffPost Oath"). Here are a few suggestions for your Oath Videos:
-- Say the oath while looking into the camera. Try a few takes and send us your favorite one.
-- Wear a suit or nice dress (You're getting sworn in as president!) If that's not your style, wear something that shows your personality or what you do for a living.
-- As you say the oath, raise one hand and put the other hand on a Bible, Koran, or whatever tome you hold dear.
-- For you technical types, film in front of a keyable background -- solid green or blue -- otherwise film inside your home, front porch, backyard, or in front of a recognizable landmark in your town.
-- Make sure there is some light on your face and try to minimize background noise.
-- Use a webcam or camera on a tripod to eliminate camera shake.
-- Film your friends and family while you're at it -- the more the merrier.
A guiding theme of Obama's campaign was the notion that his election was not just about sending him to the White House -- it was about all of us becoming engaged in changing our country. As David Axelrod put it to me during the race, the very tired old Washington model has been "I'll do these things for you." Obama's model is: "Let's do these things together."
This is what change looks like. We can expect big things from the new administration; but we should expect -- and demand -- even bigger things from ourselves. You don't have to lead vast nations or command huge armies to make a difference. You just have to follow the very American urge to take matters into our own hands.
So send us your pledges, the links to your service pics and videos, and the links to videos of you taking the presidential oath. Can't wait to see them.