“Ask Not What Your Country Can Do For You…”
Thus ended one of the most celebrated political speeches in modern American history.
Maybe it is time to bring back the vision it created at the time in which it was said. It was the beginning of the first non WASP president of the United States, J F Kennedy, and it was part of his inaugural speech. Viet Nam had started, the Cold War was very warm and international disagreements were at our doorstep, about 90 miles south of Key West.
This was an era when “entitlements” were actually earned and not used as political weapons or tools to purchase voters… and votes. I had just come from Cuba and was adapting to a new everything and those words meant a lot to me. The first time I began to listen to and understand this speech, was during an American History class, where we had to study it and explain it in our own words. This exercise gave me an insight as to what I could find in my new country. Ironically, and sadly, it was during the same American History period a year later that we learned of the death of JFK, the man who had given that speech as a newly elected president.
Our country today is torn apart by factions which seem to be far more interested in furthering their own agendas, than in taking care of the society and the country it supports and of which is a structural beam. If we stand up, we are accused of being “standupists” and if we sit down we are then berated for being “sitdowners”. There are so many "politically correct" groups that seem to have nothing else to do, but to spend their time looking for ideas or issues which are truly non-important and making them into “cause-celebres”.
Race issues, which had lost some of its negative meaning due to overall gains by all sides, has been made anew into a dividing rift which creates not understanding, but downright hostility and anger between people. Religion is not far behind. Welfare costs have tripled in the last 6 years and so has the national debt. And yet, we have leaders who continue to talk as if we live in an eternal cornucopia which will never run out, no matter how much is given away, whether earned or not.
Unfortunately, it will run out and this end run may be closer than many who want to just keep on receiving actually understand. We have forgotten, or put aside out of convenience, the truth that we used to live by and which stated that what is best for the country is what is best for the citizens and not the other way around. If our country wins, we all win. If it fails, we all lose.
Maybe it is time to dust-off that inaugural speech and learn to understand all over again that famous closing line and what it means to us and to our country as a whole…
"Ask not what your country can do for you;
ask what you can do for your country."
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