Obama’s Michigan commencement speech: “Government is us.”

I’ve waited my whole life for a politician to say this. It’s something I’ve been saying for years. I even wrote a quick post about it last fall: “Us” vs “Them”.

We need to look at government as what – and who – it really is in our country:

  • My grandfather, who was a marine, then a letter carrier for his whole life.
  • My neighbors who work for the local school district and the county Clerk’s office.
  • My friends, who help design GIS systems for the National Parks Service and keep the computers of the local courts running.
  • Members of my church, who work in our Congressman’s local office helping constituents, and provide a voice for our colleges in the state legislature.

Making “government” out to be some invading force is ignoring our democratic heritage, and keeps us from realizing what we can accomplish when we work together.

Clipped from www.huffingtonpost.com

But the other strand is the belief that there are some things we can only do together, as one nation – and that our government must keep pace with the times.

This notion hasn’t always been partisan. It was the first Republican President, Abraham Lincoln, who said that the role of government is to do for the people what they cannot do better for themselves. He would go on to begin that first intercontinental railroad and set up the first land-grant colleges. It was another Republican, Teddy Roosevelt, who said that “the object of government is the welfare of the people.” He is remembered for using the power of government to break up monopolies, and establishing our National Park system. Democrat Lyndon Johnson announced the Great Society during a commencement here at Michigan, but it was the Republican president before him, Dwight Eisenhower, who launched the massive government undertaking known as the Interstate Highway System.

For when our government is spoken of as some menacing, threatening foreign entity, it conveniently ignores the fact in our democracy, government is us. We, the people, hold in our hands the power to choose our leaders, change our laws, and shape our own destiny.

Government is the police officers who are here protecting us and the service men and women who are defending us abroad. Government is the roads you drove in on and the speed limits that kept you safe. Government is what ensures that mines adhere to safety standards and that oil spills are cleaned up by the companies that caused them. Government is this extraordinary public university – a place that is doing life-saving research, catalyzing economic growth, and graduating students who will change the world around them in ways big and small.