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Betting His Legacy on Public Participation

Posted: 01/26/09 12:23 PM ET

President Obama is betting his legacy on public participation. He is reaching out to the people, setting an example for public service since his early days as a community organizer. For minimal compensation, the Ivy League promise went back to the 'hood' in high spirits to do some good. And boy, did he deliver; he went on from the grassroots to the stem, from the streets to the oval office, from a common organizer to the leader of the free world.

Knowing how important it is to have the people engaged in their communities, building on their good will to advance their immediate surrounding, President Obama is relying on participation to be viral, the new social fashion among citizens. Will it work? Not sure. People are so used to sitting tight and having living-room conversations to complain about the government, that criticizing former president Bush became our national sport. It has always been easier to complain, immerse in the anger and point the blame at the one in charge. Where would all the anger and frustration go now that our fearless leader is showing personal example? Maybe for once they'll get angry at each other, for not getting involved in social activity.

I envision a meeting among friends comparing their volunteering portfolio: One is involved in helping the local school system build a library to promote literacy. Another is volunteering at a homeless shelter to serve dinner on weeknights and the third is teaching youngsters on his free evenings about eco-friendly products and the environment.

There is a great potential for a positive change in our society, a change where people take charge of serving the public, living a life that is meaningful and satisfying. President Obama wants to transform the people from passive observers to active participants. Paying it forward with good deeds will have the utmost desired outcome -- having a better functioning society with our values fulfilled. That would be his lasting legacy of a true change.

Much like he was able to convince millions to make small campaign contributions, he now hopes to mobilize those millions towards the much-anticipated change. We can lower crime rates and build safer environments, promote literacy; help kids escape their fate through educational stimulus. If the public gets it -- the idea of participation, it would formulate Obama's legacy, his real impact on America. If he fails to shake the dust off the citizens, old habits will resuscitate, criticizing the government, blaming it for all that is failing. The amazing approval ratings will start to erode. Following that, President Obama will lose his Rock Star status and start to look more like the neighbor next door. Will it happen to him? I'd like to think not. Let's get up and do something about it, because we all like rock stars -- they rock!