I read the Jan. 5 issue of The Merciad and saw the editor-in-chief’s plea for writers, so I answered the call. The school paper was in need and I wanted to help.
Similarly, this got me thinking about a particular part of President Kennedy’s first (and only) inaugural address 50 years ago. He said, “… my fellow Americans: Ask not what your country can do for you—ask what you can do for your country.” I started to think of the cynicism regarding whether the message of his speech still resonates today.
Were it spoken today, the call to service would be mocked as an increase for more government. His idyllic clamoring for a united world to “explore the stars, conquer the deserts, eradicate disease tap the ocean depths” could easily be dismissed by cynics as dreamy and lacking specifics.
Young Americans today would not only be uninspired, but they would be completely skeptical of what his “real” reason for the speech was. Many people nowadays are concerned with the triumph of self interest over public interest.
His generation grew up in a country shaped by World War, in the middle of a Cold War, and on the brink of social revolution. Our generation grew up after the end of the Cold War, with nobody for our military industrial complex to challenge us.
Our country had to search out and find new enemies and challenges. Old men start wars, but young men and women fight them. It is not a surprise that college students today are more narcissistic and self-centered than a generation ago, according to a study released by San Diego State University in 2007.
Although, we would be a better country if we thought more about the common good and less about what’s good for each of us.
The good news is that a recent survey by Knights of Columbus-Marist shows overwhelming support for the ideals Kennedy outlined – service and freedom remain a focus of American citizens.
I still believe the speech resonates partly because of Kennedy’s belief in “a deep commitment to the nobility of public service.”
Our college supports tutoring younger kids, raising funds for special causes and I couldn’t even begin to list all the positive effects our clubs and organizations have on the community.
The test for us draws closer when we pass through the doors of Old Main for the final time. Many of us have this “take charge, help the needy, sacrifice and hard work for those less fortunate attitude” only to have it fade into an indifference to society.
Right now, the economic recovery is sluggish and the unemployment high. The country is fighting two wars and political camps are deeply and severely divided. Confidence in political leaders to solve the nation’s problems is at historical lows.
Welcome to the “real world.”
I would challenge my fellow classmates to continue to give back to society. Sure, there are problems we cannot tackle by ourselves. Most problems of this world are bigger than any one of us. But that doesn’t mean we give up and let our fellow man suffer.
We are not perfect beings and neither will be our solutions to problems. The next time we see a car stuck on the side of a road, don’t continue to drive. Help them out, for that may be you someday.