“Ask not what your country can do for you ...”
There are few phrases in the history of America that are as iconic as the one spoken by the late John F. Kennedy during his Inaugural Address on the steps of the Capitol on Jan. 20, 1961.
“... Ask what you can do for your country.”
It had been a tough campaign road for the Massachusetts senator. While the Kennedy family was well known and established in New England, it wasn’t clear whether JFK would have broad voter appeal. He set to change the pundits’ minds, especially in West Virginia. The candidate visited a coal mine, knocked on doors, had one-on-one conversations with the people of the Mountain State — real conversations about needs and problems they faced in their day-to-day life.
Despite all the obstacles in his way the day he stepped into West Virginia, he convinced the voters who were very conservative and went to their Protestant churches each Sunday that a rich Roman Catholic liberal was the man who needed to lead this nation. Why? Because he didn’t just ask for a vote, he asked what he could do to help West Virginians.
And it was the Mountain State who helped propel him to victory in the Democratic primary in May 1960. It was the voters of West Virginia who proved that Kennedy had broad voter appeal. It was the hardworking coal miners and steelworkers and factory employees who were among the first to believe in Kennedy’s New Frontier.
Weeks later, he would deliver that next iconic speech at the Democratic Convention.
“We stand today on the edge of a New Frontier — the frontier of 1960s, the frontier of unknown opportunities and perils, the frontier of unfilled hopes and unfilled dreams. ... Beyond that frontier are uncharted areas of science and space, unsolved problems of peace and war, unconquered problems of ignorance and prejudice, unanswered questions of poverty and surplus.”
Today marks the 50th anniversary of a very dark day in America’s history, a day when hate and rage took the life of a president who in three short years had more of an impact on his party and his nation than those before him. He challenged the country to end systematic racism through integration. He challenged American scientists to put a man on the moon by the end of the decade. He challenged lawmakers to aid the poor and the unemployed. He challenged the federal government to mandate companies pay fair wages to workers. He asked that the nation support higher education.
“All this will not be finished in the first 100 days,” he said on that January day of his inauguration. “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.”
No one could have known that his own life would end less than three years later, that right around the 1,000-day mark his life would be cut short by an assassin’s bullet.
But we know that his vision has lasted even to this day. We know that he inspired a generation to serve in the 1960s, and today still inspires the youngest of our citizens through all he accomplished during his too-brief tenure as president.
At Arlington Cemetery, the Eternal Flame burns where Kennedy’s body is entombed. It is a physical representation of the torch that Kennedy asked us all to carry the day he took office.
“In your hands, my fellow citizens, more than in mine, will rest the final success or failure of our course.
“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.
“Finally, whether you are citizens of America or citizens of the world, ask of us the same high standards of strength and sacrifice which we ask of you. With a good conscience our only sure reward, with history the final judge of our deeds, let us go forth to lead the land we love, asking his blessing and his help, but knowing that here on Earth God’s work must truly be our own.”
“Ask not what your country can do for you ...”
COLUMN: Freedom of Information — if you can pay
Several years ago, I made a Freedom of Information request to a local government agency. Within the five business days, as required by law, a packet of information was delivered to the office. I expected a bill, as most government offices have a charge that ranges from 25 cents to $1.25 per page for copies of the documents we request.
The reassuring spirit of Easter: One of new hope and beginnings
During the sub-zero and snow-filled months of winter, we maintained a spirit of hope that spring was on the way. It has now become a reality as all nature stretches and yawns and awakens once more to a new beginning. The fragrance of spring awakens our waiting nostrils, the budding beauty of new life brightens our eyes, and the reassuring idea of renewal stimulates our minds.
Unsung heroes handling calls in emergencies are appreciated
Thankfully, we live in a community where help is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week, just by dialing three numbers — 9-1-1.
During this week, which is recognized as National Public Safety Tele-Communicator’s Week nationwide, we need to remember that on the other end of that line are the men and women here in this county who are always there in case of accident, crimes, medical emergencies and any other catastrophic event.
Message to ‘buckle up and park the phone’ is saving lives
A figure that we haven’t seen that much in recent years is the highway death toll for a given period.
Is the death toll up, down or just about the same as it was?
The West Virginia Southern Regional Highway Safety Program has announced there were 325 highway fatalities in 2013, the second-lowest number on record.
State native Burwell can ‘deliver results’ as Health and Human Services secretary
Sylvia Mathews Burwell might not be a name with which most people are immediately familiar.
For the past year, she has run the budget office under President Barack Obama.
Prior to that, she served as president of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation’s Global Development Program and later the Wal-Mart Foundation.
Marion scores well in recent health report but could do better
When it comes to area-wide studies, especially on health, there’s usually good news and bad news.
So was the recent report on the health of America’s counties released by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation recently. The nationwide county study evaluated health outcomes and health factors, and ranked counties accordingly.
COLUMN: ‘Instant’ news not always reliable
That little word has a pretty big meaning. With origins that date back to the 15th century, it means urgent, current, immediate.
But think about how that word has developed over the past few decades.
Instant pudding. Instead of slaving over a hot stove for a few minutes, you can now pour cold milk and with a bit of stirring, instant pudding!
Decision to be an organ donor can save lives
Chelsea Clair watched as her father died waiting for a bone marrow transplant.
So when she met Kyle Froelich at a car show in 2009 and heard about his struggles to find a kidney that would match his unique needs, she never hesitated to offer hers to the man she just met.
Volunteers continue to have priceless impact on community
Chances are, you know someone who volunteers. Perhaps you’re a volunteer yourself.
Marion County is full of volunteers.
They read to our youth.
They assist nonprofit agencies.
They serve on boards and committees.
And in 2013, they spent a day picking up nearly 10 tons of garbage that had been tossed out on public property around Marion County.
Proposed school calendar lives up to letter and spirit of law
West Virginia state law requires that students be in a classroom for 180 days.
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