“And so, my fellow Americans: ask not what your country can do for you–ask what you can do for your country.
My fellow citizens of the world: ask not what America will do for you, but what together we can do for the freedom of man.
Finally, whether you are citizens of America or citizens of the world, ask of us here the same high standards of strength and sacrifice which we ask of you. With a good conscience our only sure reward, with history the final judge of our deeds, let us go forth to lead the land we love, asking His blessing and His help, but knowing that here on earth God’s work must truly be our own.”
While many of us know the first part of President Kennedy’s inaugural speech of 1961, we may not know the last part. I didn’t until today. In reading it on this day, the 50th anniversary of his assassination, I was moved and brought to tears.
Some words are powerful and poignant, no matter what year they are spoken. These words are certainly so. While I’m not a religious person and not necessarily the most patriotic, I am still highly spiritual and certainly love my country.
As I hear the horrors that transpire around the globe with constant wars, political killing, global treatment of women, vast poverty and hunger–I still feel America is a nation of abundance and freedom. True we have our own poverty and hunger also, but we have constant checks and balances to combat it. And I’m not sure it’s to the extreme of other countries with millions living in destitution.
But the words that for me seem to ring in my soul are that we as individuals must do for our country. And beyond that, we must work together to make things happen! President Kennedy, as a practicing Catholic, knew enough to say that while God can help, you must truly be the one to do the work on earth! Whatever your higher power may be. And that you do it because it’s right!
And only history will show how well we all did. Since 1963 have things improved? Has hunger in the world gone down? Is there more equality among people? Is shelter more available? Is there less war? How is America doing in all these arenas? Or do we have more work to do both globally and at home?
It’s not just up to our government and America to do it all for us. We can’t sit back and expect the citizens to make more laws to protect resources and then all go and drive huge cars. We can’t complain about healthcare and the cost of insurance and then be overweight and not exercise. We can’t complain about over crowding in schools and school taxes and then have five kids per family. We can’t complain about our neighbor’s noise when we’ve never even made an effort to know who our neighbors are. And it’s easy to forget that the millions dying overseas of starvation are people just like us.
It’s time we as Americans take responsibility: for ourselves, our community, our world! It’s easy to complain, blame and expect ‘them’ to fix things. It’s easy to point fingers and say it was the other people who broke everything. But until we admit that maybe it was us too and we are willing to meet halfway, then we can never heal. Make at least one sacrifice in our life–one change!
It’s 2013 now, 50 years later and President John F. Kennedy had a vision. He tasked a nation to take on responsibility. I was only a small child then, but somewhere in the deep recesses of my soul I have tried to embrace these words. Hopefully as a nation we can move closer and closer to these goals and embrace the world as one.