When I listened to President-Elect Barack Obama deliver his victory speech from Chicago on Tuesday night, I was reminded of my high school teachers.

Not all of them, but a handful: the really good ones. The ones who had the ability to look at you and know exactly what you were capable of, and who then went on to expect you to achieve it. They not only asked you to meet their standards, but to raise your own personal standards and to meet those as well. Mine were named Tim O’Brien, Chris Chapman, Pam Gress and Paul Johnson. I did my best work in their classrooms.

I heard overtones of that challenge, that invitation during Tuesday night’s speech: What we’ve already achieved gives us hope for what we can and must achieve tomorrow. Obama’s campaign, as has been said over and over, was remarkable in its capacity to energize those who had never truly taken a stake in presidential politics before – the youth vote, the minority community, the middle and working classes – all of whom the President-Elect praised during his speech for their effort and dedication and the victory they had achieved.

But he, like my teachers, wasn’t letting us off the hook there. Now that we’d seen what we are capable of, what we as an American people can achieve, he went on to ask us to continue to meet that heightened expectation.

[Change] can’t happen without you, without a new spirit of service, a new spirit of sacrifice. So let us summon a new spirit of patriotism, of responsibility, where each of us resolves to pitch in and work harder and look after not only ourselves, but each other.

Highlighted on the Obama Administration’s transition website is a remarkable plan to expand America’s national service programs, not only by increasing support of AmeriCorps and the Peace Corps, but by the creation of a Classroom Corps, a Health Corps, and more. The Administration is putting out a call to all Americans, and especially students, to serve; to give each of us the chance to use our own hands and minds and commitment to actively improve our country and our world. Because, to paraphrase the tens of thousands of people in Grant Park: we can. We know we can. Our President-Elect knows we can. And so, like my U.S. History and Pre-Calculus teachers, he expects us to live up to it.

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