Richard Haass, President of CFR – The Bill of Obligations: How We Save Our Own Democracy
About the Event:
A provocative guide to how we must reenvision citizenship if American democracy is to survive.
Having served in the Pentagon, State Department and White House under four presidents, Democrat and Republican alike, Dr. Richard Haass has long been one of our nation’s most effective and respected foreign policy leaders. As President of the nonpartisan Council on Foreign Relations, he continues to advise our nation’s leadership and inform the American public on dangerous threats from Russia, China, North Korea, Iran, terrorists, climate change and future pandemics. But the greatest peril to the country, however, Haass argues comes not from abroad but from within, from none other than ourselves. The question facing us is whether we are prepared to do what is necessary to save our democracy.
The Bill of Obligations is a bold call for change and contends that the very idea of citizenship must be revised and expanded. The Bill of Rights is at the center of our Constitution, yet our most intractable conflicts often emerge from contrasting views as to what our rights ought to be. As former Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer pointed out, “Many of our cases, the most difficult ones, are not about right versus wrong. They are about right versus right.” The lesson is clear: rights alone cannot provide the basis for a functioning, much less flourishing, democracy.
But there is a cure: to place obligations on the same footing as rights. The ten obligations that Haass introduces here are essential for healing our divisions and safeguarding the country’s future. These obligations reenvision what it means to be an American citizen. They are not a burden but rather commitments that we make to fellow citizens and to the government to uphold democracy and counter the growing apathy, anger, selfishness, division, disinformation, and violence that threaten us all. Through an expert blend of civics, history, and political analysis, this book illuminates how Americans can rediscover and recover the attitudes and behaviors that have contributed so much to this country’s success over the centuries.
As Haass argues, “We get the government and the country we deserve. Getting the one we need, however, is up to us.” The Bill of Obligations gives citizens across the political spectrum a plan of action to achieve it.
About the Speaker:
Dr. Richard Haass is president of the nonpartisan Council on Foreign Relations. An experienced diplomat and policymaker, he served in the Pentagon, State Department, and White House under four presidents, Democrat and Republican alike. A recipient of the Presidential Citizens Medal, the State Department’s Distinguished Honor Award, and the Tipperary International Peace Award, he is the author or editor of fifteen other books, including the bestselling The World: A Brief Introduction, A World in Disarray, and Foreign Policy Begins at Home.