A New Definition of Citizenship: Rights and Obligations

Common Ground Committee Let's Find Common Ground Podcast Episode 93

Subscribe to the Podcast

Listen on Google PodcastsListen on podcast app Player FM

A New Definition of Citizenship: Rights and Obligations

When we consider the meaning of citizenship, most Americans usually think about individual rights. In this episode, we hear a bold call for change. Our guest, Richard Haass, says that if democracy is to survive, we must re-envision citizenship and consider our obligations to one another.

He argues that the greatest threat the country faces comes not from foreign adversaries but from none other than ourselves. Finding common ground and healing bitter divides, he says, requires placing obligations on the same footing as rights. “We get the government and the country we deserve. Getting the one we need is up to us.”

A highly experienced diplomat and policymaker, Dr. Haass served in the Pentagon, State Department, and White House under four Presidents, Democrat and Republican alike. His new book is “The Bill of Obligations. The Ten Habits of Good Citizens”. For 20 years Richard Haass was president of the nonpartisan Council on Foreign Relations. Today he serves as CFR’s president emeritus.

Dr. Richard Haass

Common Ground Committee Podcast Richard Haass

Dr. Richard Haass is a veteran diplomat and a prominent voice on American foreign policy. He is president emeritus of the Council on Foreign Relations, an independent, nonpartisan membership organization, think tank, publisher, and educational institution dedicated to being a resource to help people better understand the world and the foreign policy choices facing the United States and other countries. He previously served as CFR’s president for twenty years.

In 2013, he served as the chair of the multiparty negotiations in Northern Ireland that provided the foundation for the 2014 Stormont House Agreement. For his efforts to promote peace and conflict resolution, he received the 2013 Tipperary International Peace Award.

From January 2001 to June 2003, Dr. Haass was director of policy planning for the Department of State, where he directed the policy planning staff and was a principal advisor to Secretary of State Colin Powell. Confirmed by the U.S. Senate to hold the rank of ambassador, Dr. Haass also served as U.S. coordinator for policy toward the future of Afghanistan and U.S. envoy to the Northern Ireland peace process.

Dr. Haass has extensive additional government experience. From 1989 to 1993, he was special assistant to President George H.W. Bush and senior director for Near East and South Asian affairs on the staff of the National Security Council. In 1991, Dr. Haass was awarded the Presidential Citizens Medal for his contributions to the development and articulation of U.S. policy during Operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm. Previously, he served in the Departments of State (1981–1985) and Defense (1979–1980), and was a legislative aide in the U.S. Senate.

A Rhodes Scholar, Dr. Haass holds a bachelor’s degree from Oberlin College and master’s and doctorate of philosophy degrees from Oxford University. He has also received numerous honorary degrees and was a member of the faculty of Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government and Hamilton College.

Dr. Haass is the author or editor of fourteen books on American foreign policy, one book on management, and one on American democracy. His latest book, The Bill of Obligations: The Ten Habits of Good Citizens, was published by Penguin Press in January 2023 and became a New York Times best seller. He is as well the author of a weekly newsletter, Home & Away, published on Substack.