New Book by CFR President Richard Haass Outlines Ten Obligations for Citizens to Strengthen American Democracy

New Book by CFR President Richard Haass Outlines Ten Obligations for Citizens to Strengthen American Democracy

January 24, 2023 11:39 am (EST)

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The United States faces dangerous threats from Russia, China, North Korea, Iran, terrorists, climate change, and future pandemics. The greatest peril to the country, however, comes not from abroad but from within, from none other than ourselves. The question facing Americans is whether we are prepared to do what is necessary to save our democracy.

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The Bill of Obligations: The Ten Habits of Good Citizens is a bold call for change. CFR President Richard Haass argues in his latest book that the very idea of citizenship must be revised and expanded. The Bill of Rights is at the center of the U.S. Constitution, yet the 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.

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But there is a cure: to place obligations on the same footing as rights. The ten obligations that Haass introduces are essential for healing American divisions and safeguarding the country’s future. These obligations re-envision 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 a 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.

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Read more about The Bill of Obligations: The Ten Habits of Good Citizens and order your copy at https://www.cfr.org/book/bill-obligations

Subscribe to Haass’s Home & Away newsletter on Substack.

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To interview the author, please contact CFR Communications at 212.434.9888 or [email protected]

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