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A call to action

January 20 2009 | Jim's Blog,
by Jim

Like many of you, I've watched Obama's rise to prominence. Today, like millions of others around the globe, I watched him become President of the United States.

Since Surfrider Foundation is a non-partisan organization I won't comment on the political aspects of the race or his positions, but will rather draw parallels from his oration to our mission.

To me, the central theme of his speech was a call for engagement.

We're all familiar with the myriad of challenges facing nations and peoples around the world; poverty, environmental degradation, financial crisis, heath care reform, Social Security and Medicare collapse, etc.

There is no shortage of challenges.

However, I believe there may be a shortage of people willing to engage on these challenges.

I heard similar thoughts echoed throughout Obama's inauguration speech.

In my opinion, we've become insulated, selfish and short sighted. We don't engage with our neighbors, we've become cynical and suspect of virtually all types of institutions, and we watch high definition imagery of wars, poverty and catastrophe from the comfort of our well-insulated homes. Even these things we view via Tivo, tailored to our minute-to-minute whims. Our kids would rather play Wii than get dirty; we would rather have someone else wash our car, clean our house or tend our plants than do these simple tasks ourselves.

In some odd twist it's as if we've lost touch with reality when we have access to more reality than every before.

When I read Obama's speech I see the same themes Kennedy and others pointed to. It's not as if these themes are ground breaking. In fact they are the same things many of our parents told us... but it seems as though we have forgotten them.

Volunteering isn't as sexy as the imagery we're fed on TV, so we shop instead of give our time away. Picking up other people's trash on a beach isn't as fun as walking on a beach or paddling out and surfing. Investing weeks and months of your life on an social or environmental issue doesn't yield financial gains like directing your energy into business does.

Yet investing yourself in meaningful causes, helping others or preserving our environment gives something so much larger than those other pursuits. These things fill your heart and soul with meaning. They yield a life well lived rather than a life well consumed.

Obama won't save the United States from calamity, fiscal collapse, environmental decline and social degradation. He's just one person. I believe his strongest message is, "don't look at me...look at each other." His largest message is to each of us as individuals, it's a call to action.

Regardless of our political party, regardless of our income, race or religious is the time to engage. Now is the time to find the cause that intersects with your heart. Now is the time to make your life one with purpose.

If you love oceans, waves or beaches you should engage with us. Sign up for Soup, our digital weekly newsletter, become a member, find a chapter near you and get involved in your local community.

And if these things don't resonate with you then take time to figure out what cause you do love. What could you pour time into and not consider "work?"

If there is one message I hope people take away from Obama's candidacy and today's inauguration it's that there is no "special team" to come in and save the day... it's up to all of us.

Find a cause you care about and connect.

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