Hot Topics 2023

The Bill of Obligations: 10 Habits of Good Citizens

Thu Jun 1, 2023
6:00 PM - 7:00 PM


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

“The Bill of Obligations” is a bold call for change. In these pages, New York Times bestselling author Dr. Richard Haass argues that the very idea of citizenship must be revised and expanded. “The Bill of Rights” is at the center of our Constitution, yet our most intractable conflicts often emerge from contrasting views about our rights. 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.

But there is a cure: to place obligations on the same footing as rights. The ten obligations that Haass introduces are essential for healing our 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 an expert blend of civics, history and political analysis, Haas illuminates how Americans can rediscover and recover the attitudes and behaviors that have contributed so much to this country’s success over the centuries.

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.

Kathy and Neal Kimmel generously underwrite the Hot Topics series.


Dr. Richard Haass

Dr. Richard Haass


Council on Foreign Relations