John Fitzgerald Kennedy and Today’s American Citizen

In just a few days, November 22nd will mark fifty-four years since the tragic assassination of President John Fitzgerald Kennedy in Dallas, Texas. That horrific event remains today at the center of many American’s minds, riddled with its treachery, sorrow, and the ominous conspiracies that still surround it at present. These conspiracies have only been heightened, of course, in light of the recent news that President Donald J. Trump has proceeded with the scheduled release of the documents investigating the death of the 35th President of the United States. With the extra attention given to death of President Kennedy this year, it is imperative, I would contend, that we reflect upon the thematic backbone of the Kennedy presidency.

Arguably the most notable line of any presidential inauguration speech in United States history is that which Kennedy put forth on January 20th, 1961. He decreed to American citizens to “ask not what your country can do for you – ask what you can do for your country.”

Over the years, the line has become ubiquitous and, therefore, I would modestly submit, somewhat overused. The notion that President Kennedy pronounced to the world spoke to the nature of the individual in the American system. He announced to the world this value, among others, at a particularly turbulent time in not only United States history but in world events. The U.S. was at the height of the Civil Rights movement, whilst the world was in a battle for the way in which citizens were to be governed, via the Cold War. The ideas presented in President Kennedy’s speech were the backbones of those movements.

As mentioned in the aforesaid, the 35th President of the United States’ inaugural remarks touched upon the intrinsic value of the citizen in a society. More broadly, it reiterates the principles upon which the U.S. has its roots. The Republic of the United States is bounded by the inherent value of the members that coincide in its territory; thus, it is their own dignity, character, and virtue that advance the Nation forward to its optimal ability or self. It is this inherent calling, the arduous strains that human nature puts upon itself, that President Kennedy believes will triumph during these difficult and times. This ideology that President Kennedy advocated for, formed from the amalgamation of virtue and self-reliance, allowed for the United States to flourish – and ultimately for democracy to be victorious.

And so today, moreover, it can be reasonably articulated that the United Sates finds itself in a similar critical juncture, both domestically and abroad. Given recent domestic incidents in Charlottesville, mass shootings in Nevada and Texas, and the “broken politics” that have left many feeling marginalized, as well as international occurrences such as the ongoing feud with North Korea and the seemingly eternal tensions with Russia, this has left many to question: Alas, what shall we do?

Amid the tension, flaring of emotions, and outcry of voices begging to be heard, we now must adhere, once again, to the principles we seem to have left – the same principles Kennedy reignited in his inaugural address, which fueled a nation’s hopes and dreams, catalyzing the American spirit anew.

Accordingly, I challenge every American to ponder the aforementioned proclamation – President John F. Kennedy’s call to duty. From that, I find it reasonable to discern that the value of the individual must never be degraded nor undignified, for doing so will perish the foundation of a nation built on the ideals that the virtue that stems from this self-responsibility will empower the person to seek-out a better community for those around him or herself. As such, this logic must have substance underlying it, nonetheless, as it relates to the world with which we are at odds today. If you find a recognizable change that you can make as just one person, do it. There is no triviality in this change but rather just another stride as progress and truth reveals itself. Inaction – and the ramifications that stem from it – are far worse than any hesitation.

To conclude, read through the newly released files surrounding his assassination and celebrate President Kennedy’s life, as that desolate day looms near. But as he even once noted, “A man may die, nations may rise and fall, but an idea lives on.” Thus, it is nonetheless pivotal that whilst doing those things, that a citizen engages in debate; seeks a new perspective; and discovers within him or herself the conviction to answer President Kennedy’s timeless promulgation. This is the idea that he sought to have live on, for the challenge is as pertinent now as ever.

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