“Ask not what your country can do for you – ask what you can do for your country.”

kennedy-inaugural-addressThose words were uttered by President John F. Kennedy 50 years ago this coming Thursday (January 20) at his Inaugural Address. Ironically President Kennedy was sworn in by Justice Earl Warren who would later Chair the President’s Commission on the Assassination of President Kennedy (The Warren Report) just a few years later. However, Kennedy’s inauguration was a time of hope. While it may not be chronologically perfect,  I believe that the “60s” began on January 20, 1961 and ended 13 years later on August 8, 1974 , the date of the resignation of  President Nixon, the same man who wanted so badly to be standing next to Justice Warren on January 20, 1961.

I realize that that anyone who is not close to 60 or older would not have heard those words live, though I suspect most of us have heard them since. I admittedly don’t recall whether I remember them from that day or later studies. But I remember the impact that our young President had on our nation as a young 3rd grader at Maple Avenue Elementary school in Newark, NJ.

It was a time of hope and also of fear. The Cold War with the Soviet Union permeated the psyche of the American public. The subsequent Cuban Missile Crisis would magnify those fears. It was also the early days of our nation’s involvement in Vietnam, a war we would later come to regret.

President Kennedy’s term was a short one—it spanned less than 3 years. He was a  good, but great President. He laid the groundwork for important legislation that his successor, President Johnson, would spearhead. Furthermore, we’ve come to understand his flaws as a husband and a leader.

But there were few Presidents who inspired our nation as he did and made us as proud to be Americans. I am happy that I’m old enough to remember his Presidency and unfortunately his assassination. If you ever travel to Dallas, a trip to the Sixth Floor Museum at the original Book Depository, which chronicles the assassination and legacy of President Kennedy is a must.

Some other passages from President Kennedy’s Inaugural Address are as follows:

“…the belief that the rights of man come not from the generosity of the state, but from the hand of God.”

“Let the word go forth…..that the torch has been passed to a new generation of Americans.”

“Let every nation know… that we shall pay any price, bear any burden, meet any hardship, support any friend, oppose any foe, to assure the survival and the success of liberty.”

“The world is very very different now. For man holds in his mortal hands the power to abolish all forms of human poverty and all forms of human life.”

“Let us never negotiate out of fear. But let us never fear to negotiate.”

“All this will not be finished in the first 100 days. Nor will it be finished in the first 1,000 days, nor in the life of this Administration, nor even perhaps in our lifetime on this planet. But let us begin.”

This final passage couldn’t be truer.

More Strumings:

More Strumings

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