“Ask not what your country can do for you. Ask what you can do for your country.” These words have a prophetic meaning and are even stronger than, “The only thing to fear is fear itself” which was spoken by Franklin Delano Roosevelt when he was inaugurated in 1933. Of course the first quote was spoken by John F. Kennedy at his presidential inauguration in 1961. This is possibly the most inspirational inauguration quote ever uttered by a president on the day he takes the oath of office.
At the time Kennedy took office the United States was lagging the Communist United Soviet Socialist Republic, USSR, in the space race. We had had some significant misses and Russia was preparing to launch the first man into space. The United States was also lagging in the Cold War as Communism was spreading throughout Southeast Asia, South America and the horn of Africa. Kennedy knew that it would take a people that was united in belief in itself and not divided by political partisanship. The country had to pull together as one nation and the population had to be motivated to put the country ahead of self interest. Kennedy’s inaugural address fueled the fire of patriotism and launched the United States into a new level of existence.
Soon after taking office he proclaimed that we would put a man on the moon by 1970. We had just launched the first man into space, Alan Sheppard, on a 15 minute flight and he was talking of a moon landing in less that nine years. That was an incredible goal that would take the people of America pulling together as one. Kennedy was a PT boat skipper in WWII. This was somewhat of a mustang unit that lived on its own wits and used unconventional tactics to harass Japanese shipping in the Pacific. He realized that future conflicts would require a very well trained commando force to support America via clandestine operations. He chartered the formation of a naval commando unit with men pulled from the Navy frogmen. They were then trained to fight in the SEa, Air and Land and thus the SEALS were founded. He was tested during the Cuban missile crisis and with our country quickly mobilizing and standing fully behind its’ president, the Russians backed down and removed the missiles.
The secret to this success was not only the leadership of a dynamic president but also a unified country that wanted to continue to build itself into the greatest country in the world. Kennedy would see little of his foresight as he was assassinated two years into his presidency but his goals were accomplished. We placed a man on the moon in 1969. Collateral benefits included the PC computer, micro chips, corning ware, Tang and hundreds of other inventions that have helped our lives. Backing down the Russians reinforced the United States as a major power and set the table for a collapse of Communism in 1989 under Ronald Reagan’s administration. As for the Navy SEALS, two years ago they took out Osama Bin Lader which is the pinnacle of an illustrious existence.
As great as these accomplishments are what is overlooked is that it took a nation that truly answered Kennedy’s call of “Ask what you can do for your country”. Much of this spirit remains with us; however, the shift of our government has led many to state, “Ask not what I can do for my country. Ask what my country can do for me.” It is important that the government encourages growth from the average American. Instead of promising numerous benefits to everyone the government should be encouraging its’ citizens to take advantage of a country that allows a person to be the person they want to be. Instead of telling a country how it needs to run its’ business, the government needs to shed off the shackles of regulation and allow the American spirit to grow and blossom. Our next four years will be interesting as we see how the leadership of our country responds to the need to return our country to the sole leader of the world.
Correction from a previous article. I stated that Ft Stewart was the Army Boot Camp. It is in fact Fort Jackson and I should have remembered after proudly watching my son graduate from training.


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