Ask Not …

On January 20, 1961, a young(ish) man stood before the world and laid down a challenge for every American.  Not that Americans of 1961 weren’t used  to being challenged – two World Wars and a variety of other conflicts were fresh in their minds – but this was different.  This guy asked America to prepare to take the reins of world leadership and look so far forward that we’d never be able to look back.

“… 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.”

We seem to have forgotten how that works. Forty years later a president told us the best we could do for America – for the world – in the face of terror and tragedy was to go shopping.

Here in 2013, most of us have quite a list of demands for America, many of them perfectly reasonable and altruistic, but demands from our country nonetheless. What are we prepared to do for our country today?

Hmmm … most of us are willing to pay taxes, as long as they’re not too high.  Some of us are willing to show up to vote now and again.  Maybe serve on the PTA if we’re pushed.  Read our favorite news sites on the internet, argue with the talking heads on cable news shows.


Is that who we are today?

What should we be doing instead?

I’m glad you asked.  Right now, in your community – in every  community – you are needed.  You don’t have to be willing to risk your life, your fortune or your sacred honor.  How about starting with serving on a municipal board?  Maybe getting involved with an actual, real-life political advocacy group (as opposed to “liking” a cause on Facebook)?  Perhaps you could even step so far outside your comfort zone as to run for office.

Yes, you.  Your community needs you.  Your country needs you.  If you feel the need to critique your local elected official (And don’t we all?), maybe it’s time for you to step up and challenge that official.  Offer yourself for leadership.  Maybe that’s too much.  Not everybody is ready for that, and who could blame you?  It’s a buzz-saw of criticism.  But there’s something you can offer.  Something more noble than shopping.


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