He beseeched of us when he spoke those often quoted and eloquent words. "Ask not what your country can do for you; ask what you can do for your country". Among many things he accomplished, he gave birth to the Peace Corps. On June 4, 1963, he signed Presidential Executive Order 11110, putting into place a move to return to Congress its sole constitutionally mandated power to coin Money, regulate the Value thereof, and of foreign Coin, and fix the Standard of Weights and Measures. Many may have missed this bit of history until only recently, his effort to correct what he believed was born in the travesty of the creation of the Federal Reserve System. In historical context, it is not a casual observation that barely six months after he put pen to paper and just weeks after silver certificates were printed and ready to be sent to the banks, he was removed from both office and life. The certificates were destroyed.
President Kennedy had a knack for speaking beyond and to what was below the surface of his words. At least in public and in many times that he spoke, he delivered concepts of doing what he believed was right, even when it was counter to perceived mandates within his own party. He also often drove home these thoughts and ideas not by shining a light on a specific problem, but by painting onto a larger canvas colors that he felt could not be ignored lest we wish to view the entire picture. As to the issue of poor living standards around the world, he expressed deeper ideals from which we might measure our best intentions and their ultimate value. "If a free society cannot help the many who are poor, it cannot save the few who are rich". Today, it seems we could do well to remember this and others he left us, especially as it looks today as if many of those in the have, themselves in noticeable numbers, are not immune from what is demonstrably tearing us up from the inside out.
That I personally miss him is not for his perceived greatness, for he was as flawed as are we all, but for this quality he had in consistently calling on each of us to strive to be our best in our attempts to do good works and to always be vigilant protectors of the idea that it is our combined responsibility to create and honor something greater than what we can create for ourselves alone.
I used to believe that when my life was completed, I would look back at the sixties as the greatest of times to have ever been alive. Those days, when I experienced my first glimmer of what is possible outside my immediate vision of the world, were to be my golden days when I looked back.
They were. And what a time it was.
Through music, our youthful ideals and yes, our many misplaced and over exuberant senses of immortality, we truly filled the air, not with answers, but with sincere questions that caused many of us to painfully face feelings that at that time were very unpopular. In the American psyche of those post WWII days, America was generally feeling it was at its best. Then, as Vietnam began and expanded, there was a slow growing but obvious uneasiness about why we were there which fed other issues so that by the end of the decade it was an open and still untreated wound. I would say that today, that wound, never correctly diagnosed or fully healed with either compassion or the truth has, in our laziness festered, placing the very soul of our country in ICU.
Today I make the argument that we are on the precipice of a new birthing. A responsibility has been handed us. And in my little way and from my spot in the woods, I hope with all my heart we grab this sucker by the you-know-what and run with it. We have the blueprint folks. Our originators told us this could happen. We have been warned. It is time to get off the schneid.
Some 232 years ago, those imperfect men and women gave us our country based in part on a very revolutionary yet simple idea. Woven throughout these documents of birth they gave us was and is an ideal that we as a people(s), are to be a just people(s). That in our consensus would evolve not a perfect nation, but one that always strives to be one, knowing full well our intent is to be at its worst, fair to all. That even as all people may not be equal in flesh and blood human terms, that their individual dreams, wishes and desires can, but only with vigilance, be equal in their rights to attain them.
Now, 232 years later, here we are. 2008.
And what a time it is. These are our golden days.
As amazing as the 60's were, today and right now, we have an opportunity and responsibility to be a part of the greatest days we will ever see. The possibilities are limitless and in so many directions. Which direction we will go will be equal to how we each decide to become a part of what we wish to effect. If we collectively stand by and watch, content to 'see' how it plays out, we will have signed the guarantee of being faceless extras or simply mute mannequins, counted as statistical data that years from now will leave our grandchildren wondering who we were. That Washington, Jefferson, Adams, et al are remembered as they are is because they were huge. Larger than life. Because they included us. They didn't like the show. So they wrote their own. For themselves yes. But ultimately as we all see, it was for us. If we should remember anything, we must remember that. Burn it into your heart. Who this is for. Our children and our children's children.
I do not sugarcoat my expectations as I once did. Nor do make light of the issues that face us. Like our forefathers, it will take a lot more than being pissed off. Wanting change is one thing. I would argue we have been watching it change before our eyes.
And quite frankly, I have seen enough.
This is for my kids. Your kids. Our kids. Their kids.