“And so, my fellow Americans, ask not what your country can do for you; ask what you can do for your country.”
John F. Kennedy’s inaugural address 50 years ago today was brief (at 14 minutes seemingly shorter than an NFL timeout) but memorable, punctuated by that indelible line exhorting Americans to pursue careers and lives guided by public service.
Lines are more than a just a string of words. They have a context. The best lines are literally lifelines.
JFK had a mystical instinct that enabled him to connect with an audience. Part of it was his charm and good looks straight from central casting. Part of it was his eloquence.
Despite the stone-dust pallor of a half-century, his oft-cited challenge for Americans to take responsibility for something larger than themselves, to contribute to something larger than themselves, should leap to the next throat … and the next one … and the next one.
Even until this day.
Every wave must begin with one molecule of water and every fire with a single spark. That single JFK sentence, buoyed by time’s retrospection, hopefully can launch a new wave of idealistic, not narcissistic, Americans.