Ask Not ...
I was born in 1965, two years after John F. Kennedy was assassinated in Dallas. I've seen the film footage of the shooting more times than I can remember or really have wanted to see.
My mother, up until the day she died talked about John F. Kennedy with such reverence and with tears in her eyes and she, although a very shy, quiet woman, would be asked by me and my sister to tell us about how she felt. Her shyness put to the side, she would talk about the feelings she had when Kennedy was elected, and the horror she felt the day he was shot.
We would listen and we believed her because her words were brutally honest and she was our mother and this meant so much to her, so thus, it meant a lot to us.
She was devastated. She believed in his message of hope. And although I'm not one of those people who watches the Kennedys with bated breath treating them as if they are American royalty (which I do not believe), I have read many things on what Pres. Kennedy did. In my office, I have a copy of his inauguration speech hanging on the wall, which I believe is one of the most powerful political writings of the last century.
And he spoke about unity. He spoke of the choices and responsibilites of the average citizen in defining their roles in the governmental process.
And he was dangerous enough to some people as he was struck down as a young man with much more to do.
Was he perfect? No. Was he what nation needed at the time of his presidency? Yes.
These words are quite frank and simple. I leave you with this, on the anniversary of his assassination. Words written as he took office before the innocence and the assassinations of Kennedy, his brother Bobby, and Martin Luther King dropped our nation to its knees:
Now the trumpet summons us again -- not as a call to bear arms, though arms we need -- not as a call to battle, though embattled we are -- but a call to bear the burden of a long twilight struggle, year in and year out, "rejoicing in hope; patient in tribulation," a struggle against the common enemies of man: tyranny, poverty, disease, and war itself.
Can we forge against these enemies a grand and global alliance, North and South, East and West, that can assure a more fruitful life for all mankind? Will you join in that historic effort?
In the long history of the world, only a few generations have been granted the role of defending freedom in its hour of maximum danger. I do not shrink from this responsibility -- I welcome it. I do not believe that any of us would exchange places with any other people or any other generation. The energy, the faith, the devotion which we bring to this endeavor will light our country and all who serve it. And the glow from that fire can truly light the world.
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.