If JFK Lived One More Day
“Change is the law of life. And those who look only to the past or present are certain to miss the future.”
– John F. Kennedy
The following statement is not partisan. It is an issue of need. There has never been a time in history where we needed political leaders who embrace the strategy and courage to tell us to take responsibility. In the last election, both party members promised jobs in sectors of the economy that are dwindling to say the least. How much healthier would it be to have leaders that routinely give us statements like this?
I was a little boy when John F. Kennedy was gunned down. But, that event colored and shaped the rest of my life. I had been adopted into a very dark and difficult family. I remember seeing him on Television and being so impacted by his optimism, civility, and dignity. Most of all, I remember his focus on personal accountability, promoting the truth that none would hand success to us and his high-minded beliefs that Americans had the power to be fully accountable for greatness. I was six-year-old when I heard him say,
“Ask not what your country can do for you but what you can do for your country.”
To this youngster his words were so bold, clear and visionary that I heard them, bought them and knew that I wanted to be part of a solution rather than a problem. But, I remember even more shockingly the ashen-faced principal of our evangelical school walking into class and telling us that Kennedy had just been shot dead. I remember my father pulling up in his brand new white Pontiac Bonneville and the power door locks clicking as my sister and I got in. I remember him wordlessly driving home and our mother crying in front of the TV. I was struck that they had recently referred to him as “the devil” simply because he worshipped in the wrong church.
For me, John F. Kennedy was all about an opportunity, of galvanizing the human talent of a fresh superpower and focusing our nation on vision, on abundance and of living out a “pay-it-forward” philosophy that underpinned the actions of an entire dynasty.
With his abrupt departure, America entered a decade of shocking dissension and a strikingly escapist era of anger, sexuality and drugs. With the absence of aspirational vision from the top, baby boomers got out their credit cards and forgot a moment in time where putting people on the moon seemed like a good idea, where sending our best young people to impoverished nations was normal and where education could and would set anyone free.
As the anniversary of his passing approaches, I would like to share with you portions of the speeches he was going give right after that terrible event. His words signify the best within all of us, especially when we devote our lives to something bigger than ourselves:
“This link between leadership and learning is not only essential at the community level. It is even more indispensable in world affairs. Ignorance and misinformation can handicap the progress of a city or a company, but they can, if allowed to prevail in foreign policy, handicap this country’s security. In a world of complex and continuing problems, in a world full of frustrations and irritations, America’s leadership must be guided by the lights of learning and reason – – or else those who confuse rhetoric with reality and the plausible with the possible will gain the popular ascendancy with the seeming swift and simple solutions to every world problem.”
“There will always be dissident voices heard in the land, expressing opposition without alternatives, finding fault but never favor, perceiving gloom on every side and seeking influence without responsibility. Those voices are inevitable.
But today other voices are heard in the land – – voices preaching doctrines wholly unrelated to reality, wholly unsuited to the sixties, doctrines which apparently assume that words will suffice without weapons, that vituperation is as good as victory and that peace is a sign of weakness. At a time when the national debt is steadily being reduced in terms of its burden on our economy, they see that debt as the greatest single threat to our security. At a time when we are steadily reducing the number of Federal employees serving every thousand citizens, they fear those supposed hordes of civil servants far more than the actual hordes of opposing armies.
We cannot expect that everyone, to use the phrase of a decade ago, will “talk sense to the American people.” But we can hope that fewer people will listen to nonsense. And the notion that this Nation is headed for defeat through deficit, or that strength is but a matter of slogans, is nothing but just plain nonsense.”
On the Nation’s Future
“Almost everywhere we look, the story is the same. In Latin America, in Asia, in the councils of the world and in the jungles of far-off nations, there is now renewed confidence in our country and our convictions.
For this country is moving and it must not stop. It cannot stop. For this is a time for courage and a time for challenge. Neither conformity nor complacency will do. Neither the fanatics nor the faint-hearted are needed. And our duty as a party is not to our party alone, but to the Nation, and, indeed…to all mankind. Our duty is not merely the preservation of political power but the preservation of peace and freedom.
So let us not be petty when our cause is so great. Let us not quarrel amongst ourselves when our Nation’s future is at stake. Let us stand together with renewed confidence in our cause – – united in our heritage of the past and our hopes for the future – – and determined that this land we love shall lead all mankind into new frontiers of peace and abundance.”
When I embrace his message, I am not a Democrat or Republican.
No, I am that little boy living in an angry and divisive house, who listened and believed every word.
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