Nearly 60 years ago, a young United States senator took the oath of office to become president of the United States. During his remarks at his inauguration in 1961, John F. Kennedy made a statement that every young student learns in school.
It’s a statement that transcends time and generations, and it’s a statement that will ring true long after you and I have left this earth.
You know it well..and you can quote it as well as I can.
“Ask not what your country can do for you,
ask what you can do for your country.”
But it’s more than just a statement. It’s a conviction of faith. It’s a fundamental principle. And it’s a doctrine based in the values of our forefathers.
This statement may not specifically be associated with July 4 or the flag for that matter, but it is the essence of the America that we have come to know and love. It also forms the basic tenets of the 56 men who gave up everything to form our nation. You know some of them: Benjamin Franklin. Thomas Jefferson. Samuel Adams. John Hancock and there are many others whose sacrifices were just as significant and whose families gave up as much.
All of the 56 signers of the Declaration of Independence put themselves, their families, their way of life, their belongings, and their very futures on the line for what they believed. They pushed all the chips to the middle of the table, but it was more than just a wild gamble for these men. It was a courageous confidence built on fearless determination of truth and principle.
Honestly, you don’t see much in this age of gimme, gimme, gimme. Sure, people demand their way, they stand up for beliefs, but few are willing to put it all on the line and wager their very way of life. In fact, it seems many are embarrassed about the flag and their country heritage.
Today more than ever, it’s more about what your country can do for you.
So, this week as we honor and celebrate America, it’s important to remember the principles of those 56 men and the ideals they stood for. You can use this time to reset your trajectory and revisit your own values and conscience.
The times demand our best. The days ahead require our utmost effort. And future generations deserve our erstwhile action.
Indeed, we are ordinary people for extraordinary times.
As we honor America with singing, fireworks and family this week, let me share with you the words of G.K. Chesterton, the great English preacher. He said…
“The true soldier fights not because he hates what is in front of him, but because he loves what is behind him.”
The things we fight for are more than just our homes, our families, our values, but we fight today — as the 56 men signed the Declaration of Independence — for life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.
Another president left us a charge. Ronald Reagan closed his 1984 State of the union message with these compelling words: “Let us be sure that those who come after will say of us in our time, that in our time we did everything that could be done. We finished the race; we kept them free; we kept the faith.”
As you enjoy your barbeque and fireworks in this celebration of America, ask yourself, as JFK asked back in a different era: What can I do for my country?