“What is required of us now is a new era of responsibility, a recognition, on the part of every American, that we have duties to ourselves, our nation and the world, duties that we do not grudgingly accept but rather seize gladly, firm in the knowledge that there is nothing so satisfying to the spirit, so defining of our character, than giving our all to a difficult task.” — President Barack Obama January 20, 2009 In taking the oath of office on a bitterly cold winter afternoon, President Barack Hussein Obama told millions of Americans Tuesday that challenges of war, economy, terrorism, racism and government will be met if we, as generations past, are willing to serve and sacrifice for the common good. Where service and sacrifice meet, America has found greatness, Obama said. And for those who doubt our ability to build – and rebuild – the country, “their memories are short,” he said. “For they have forgotten what this country has already done; what free men and women can achieve when imagination is joined to common purpose, and necessity to courage.” It’s clear Obama has inspired millions of Americans and given them hope in the face of a deep recession, two wars and domestic disharmony affecting our schools, environment and ability to govern. While such inspiration lights a spark, flames flicker when we break free of our personal comfort zones, roll up our sleeves and see our communities, and our country, as Obama does: “Bigger than the sum of our individual ambitions.” What service and sacrifice are Placer County residents willing to make? The needs are great and the opportunities are many. Starting at home, it might be as simple as turning off your cell phone and helping your son or daughter with their homework. Down your street, help an ailing neighbor with yard work or fixing a fence. Or drive an elderly neighbor to the grocery store, or be a big brother or sister to the fatherless child next door. Do you have a passion for the environment or education? You could start or join a roadside, trail or stream cleanup project, like the 100-plus people who showed up Monday to work with the Sierra Club along Auburn Folsom Road. You could lend your strength or vocation to the classroom, helping students understand real-world concepts of saving and investing. This would pay huge dividends in the economy of the next generation. Or teach them about character, and the advantages of leading a life of honesty, integrity and citizenship. This would provide a stronger foundation for our democracy. Such acts of random service often go unnoticed, but that can’t be the case any longer. Such acts of personal sacrifice should be a beacon, inspiring others to get up, get out and provide help where it’s needed.