Watch the PBS companion documentary “A Citizen’s Guide to Preserving Democracy”
“An indispensable guide to good citizenship in an era of division and rancor.” —Anne Applebaum
There is no question that the United States faces dangerous threats from without; the greatest peril to the country, however, comes from within. In The Bill of Obligations, bestselling author Richard Haass argues that, to solve our climate of division and safeguard our democracy, the very idea of citizenship must be revised and expanded. The Bill of Rights is at the center of our Constitution, yet the most intractable conflicts often emerge from cases that, as former Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer pointed out, “are not about right versus wrong. They are about right versus right.”
There is a way forward: to place obligations on the same footing as rights. The ten obligations that Haass introduces here reenvision what it means to be an American citizen, to commit to our fellow citizens and counter the growing apathy, anger, and violence that threaten us all.
Through an expert blend of civics, history, and political analysis, this book illuminates how Americans across the political spectrum can rediscover how to contribute to and reshape this country’s future.
About the Author
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.
“Richard Haass has turned his keen mind and large heart to the most important of questions: The meaning of citizenship. If American democracy is to endure, it will require all of us to embrace what Haass calls our common obligations. This is a vital work for a decisive time.” —Jon Meacham, author of And There Was Light: Abraham Lincoln and the American Struggle
“Democracy is more than procedures and laws. It is an ethical ideal that requires much of us if it is to succeed. Richard Haass powerfully describes what he calls the Bill of Obligations, commitments and values needed for these challenging times. We may not see eye-to-eye on all the issues, but here I agree: we need a clear and thoughtful statement of our obligations to each other and to the country if this grand and fragile experiment in democracy is to survive. The Bill of Obligations does just that!”—Eddie Glaude, James S. McDonnell Distinguished University Professor, Princeton University
“Americans argue a lot about their rights, but, as Richard Haass reminds us, democracy only works if we also recognize our responsibilities. His newest book reminds us of what those are, providing an indispensable guide to good citizenship in an era of division and rancor.” —Anne Applebaum, author of Twilight of Democracy: The Seductive Lure of Authoritarianism
“In this essential book, Richard Haass calls upon us all to commit anew to the obligations of American citizenship upon which our increasingly faltering American democracy was founded. He rightly observes that the future of this country, if not the world, depends on our answering this clarion call to put patriotic, civic obligation front and center in the national political conversation. This book’s message is desperately needed if we are to bring an end to the poisonous politics eating away at the fabric of our society and begin to mend our tattered nation.” —J. Michael Luttig, former United States Court of Appeals judge
“The reasoned arguments [Richard Haass] presents make his eloquent book well worth the read.” —Booklist
“Readers of every political stripe would benefit from hearing out these well-reasoned arguments.” —Kirkus
“Haass provides a clear roadmap for a concerned citizenry. While the book’s intended audience are American citizens, his ten obligations can apply to the citizens of any liberal democracy. This is a timely read and call to action for all citizens regardless of political party affiliation. In writing this book, Haass starts an important and necessary conversation for the future of American democracy. ” —Journal of International Social Studies
“Richard Haass has written a lucid and convincing case for placing the obligations of citizens on the same footing as their rights.” —PoliticsHome