Message to Obama: Get to Work

Now that he's gotten past the shutdown, it's time for POTUS to push a progressive agenda.

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We witnessed examples of such participation this past summer in the wake of the Trayvon Martin case. Then, the sheer weight of national protests over the George Zimmerman acquittal forced Obama to candidly speak out about race in America. Obama should do no less now that the stakes, for all Americans, have been raised so high.  

The president must outline a vision of American democracy and national renewal that takes us beyond the confines of endless political combat with Republican jihadists in Congress. These disputes narrow the terrain of our vision and cheapen not only our politics but our very lives.

Now is the time for Obama to use his immense oratorical gifts to craft a new and enduring narrative of American democratic progress in the 21st century. The story he shares must highlight the multiracial, multiethnic and multigenerational makeup of American society. In doing so, Obama has the chance to remind Americans why the New Deal and Great Society programs are more than mere historical artifacts, but represent the very heart of our nation's democracy.   

Peniel E. Joseph, a contributing editor at The Root,  is founding director of the Center for the Study of Race and Democracy and a professor of history at Tufts University. He is also the Caperton fellow for the W.E.B. Du Bois Research Institute at Harvard University. He is the author of Waiting 'Til the Midnight Hour: A Narrative History of Black Power in America and Dark Days, Bright Nights: From Black Power to Barack Obama. His biography of Stokely Carmichael will be published next year by Basic Books. Follow him on Twitter. 

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