On a cold and snowy Friday afternoon, January 20th, 1961, President John F. Kennedy delivered his inaugural speech in front of thousands of spectators in Washington, D.C. His remarkable speech was televised to millions around the world. In his speech, President Kennedy spoke directly to the hearts of all Americans, regardless of their race, nationality, religion or social status. He famously asked them to rise to the occasion and deal with the day’s challenges by saying, “And so, my fellow Americans, ask not what your country can do for you; ask what you can do for your country.” His main goal is to challenge all Americans to be proud of their country and to participate in their country’s present and future success by serving in their communities in order to keep America strong.
To begin with, President Kennedy wanted to instill a sense of pride in all Americans, including children by encouraging them to serve their communities and thus their great country. He wanted people to learn and understand the value of helping each other and the commitment of giving and sacrificing for the greater good. Also, President Kennedy believed that in order for America to stay strong, everyone must be engaged and give back, not just expect benefits from the government. Our military men and women sacrifice their lives every day so that we can keep our freedoms and live in peace. In return, as good citizens, we go to school, work, vote, pay taxes and follow the law. There are many opportunities for community service for kids. As middle schoolers, we can contribute to the good of our country by offering small but very meaningful gestures to our communities we live in. We can volunteer our time in a community clean up, plant trees, participate in food and toy drives, or help people in need by visiting homeless shelters and nursing homes. Community service does not always have to be a chore. We can find activities that we enjoy, such as volunteering at local summer camps, reading books to toddlers, walking or running in charity races, helping our parents or grandparents with cutting grass, washing the cars, or walking the dogs outside. In school, we can help our teachers by studying hard, behaving properly, following rules, and doing our assignments and homework on time. We can also help our friends with studying math or any other subject we are good at.
At the end, President Kennedy wanted all of us to be thankful for the country we live in and contribute to its successes. He believed that community service would teach us leadership, compassion, and empathy. Not everyone in this world is fortunate to enjoy the freedoms we have here in America. Community service and volunteering is not only good for our communities and our country; it is good for our spirits. After all, we are all in it together.
“And so, my fellow Americans, ask not what your country can do for you – ask what you can do for your country,” a statement by John F. Kennedy, challenged every American to contribute in some way to our country, for the public good.
This means that all citizens should be more concerned as what we can do to improve the condition of our country rather than what we expect our government to do for us. President Kennedy’s statement goes beyond looking at just our country. I believe his statement should be applied to all we do. To me, the statement means that we should not be selfish and take things for granted. We should work hard for things instead of expecting to get them automatically.
Ask not what your parents can do for you – ask what you can do for your parents. Our parents are loving, they give us food, but we should not take it for granted. We should give back to them by helping around the house, making good grades, doing chores, cleaning our rooms, and we should love them like they love us unconditionally.
Ask not what your school can do for you – ask what you can do for your school. The opportunity for education should not be taken for granted. Teachers work hard to provide students with an education and, as students, we should give back to our schools by being respectful to teachers and students, volunteering, participating in school functions, and tutoring other students.
Ask not what your community can do for you –ask what you can do for your community. Our community is the immediate world around us. Parks for example, we all love going to the park. We love to play on the playground, walk our dogs, and have a picnic. Parks are beautiful. It is our responsibility to keep the park beautiful for others to enjoy by cleaning it up after we’ve been there and making sure that other people do the same. Another example are the elderly. We should help the elderly by volunteering and make sure they are okay. Meeting the needs of those who once gave their all to our community, who now can no longer give is what it’s all about. Another way to give back is to volunteer at the homeless shelter. There are families that do not have anything. Helping cook a meal, donate clothes and toys can help a needy family get back on their feet.
What President Kennedy was really talking about, it’s not about getting, it is all about giving. And when we give, we get, as an individual, to our parents, school, community, or government – so much in return.
Recently, Americans remembered the legacy of President John F. Kennedy on the 50th Anniversary of his assassination. Millions watched the historic footage of his inaugural address as he was sworn in as the 35th President of the United States. His presidency marked a new era for Americans ready to take the lead. Faced with the challenges of cold war, global tyranny, poverty, disease and an uncertain nuclear age, President Kennedy called on Americans to commit to service and sacrifice through civic action and participation in public service through his words:
“And so, my fellow Americans, ask not what your country can do for you; ask what you can do for your country.”
The world was inspired that cold day on the Capitol steps. President Kennedy realized the need to mobilize volunteers to solve humanitarian crises and build capacity for underserved citizens. He envisioned a stronger America engaged in service. He challenged every American to contribute in some way to the public good.
Today, America faces challenges with that same spirit of selflessness as strong as ever and service is being used to address critical community problems. At a time when needs are so great, government can’t do it all, volunteers are more vital than ever.
Volunteers are the heart of America, essential to our nation’s social and economic well being. They do hard work: helping kids learn to read, fighting hunger, rebuilding communities after disasters, connecting veterans to services, bringing life back to forgotten neighborhoods, improving lives of children and more. As responsible citizens, we determine how to make a difference in every community.
Several influences in my life have given me the courage to serve others. My family has been touched by cancer. I decided to use personal experience as a cancer caregiver to help others. I serve the American Cancer Society, which promotes the prevention of cancer, helps legislators understand cancer research funding and policies. My Relay for Life involvement is connected to my academic goals for a career in the medical field where I can use science to cure patients. I value our school-wide fundraising efforts for Relay for Life that supports my participation as an American Cancer Society volunteer.
I am proud my school and community support and model service through academic and extracurricular opportunities. The Beta Club motto, “let us lead be serving others” lives through our efforts to clean our campus, tutor students and collect donations for needy families. Locally, I was inspired by volunteer coaches in the Parks and Recreation programs and in turn, have volunteered my time for future generations. These activities have taught me to be caring, helpful and committed.
President Kennedy’s words are relevant today. Our nation was built on the fabric of service and it continues to strengthen each individual by empowering the talents of many to solve modern problems. That volunteer spirit is woven into the DNA of the American people and makes our nation strong. It defines who we are as a people, united in service.
How Best We As Students Can Serve Our Country
in 1968 - 1969
A country needs not only the services of the Government for its improvement but also an active participation in its affairs by each and every citizen, who has the right and duty to play a part in managing its affairs. There are some who are not interested in the affairs of their country, who, instead of endeavouring their utmost to help their country, do things to retard improvement. People like these must make a conscious effort to overhaul their thinking and attitudes and try to correct their lapses. There are others, however, who have the patriotic blood in their veins. These are the people who are willing to serve their country even at the cost of great personal sacrifice even the supreme sacrifice of life itself!
Why can't we, too, as students imitate these people? Guyana is ours; she is our Motherland. She needs our love and service; she is calling on us to love her. Oh boy! Let us go forward and show her that we can give her our services even at the expense of the last drop of our blood or the last ounce of our energy.
One of the ways in which we can serve our country is to apply ourselves scrupulously to our studies. We come to school with an aim, that is, to be trained for whatever profession we may have in mind. Some of us may want to become doctors, nurses, teachers, lawyers, engineers, and what have you, and by toiling to become better men and women, a bright future prospect for Guyana is ensured. It means, therefore, that the limited amount of time we have to spend in school, let us not spend it destructively in the idle dalliance. Let us spend it constructively to plant rich seeds to blossom and bear fruit in the future.
We can serve our country, too, by being loyal to the needs of our school. We must always try our best to help our fellow students and to be respectful to our teachers. Senior students must not shirk their responsibility; they must take the initiative to set examples of courtesy, benignity, generousity and humanity which junior students may emulate. These are all useful assets we may possess to make ourselves better citizens.
Moreover, to serve our country we must associate ourselves with the numerous and various social and cultural organizations whereby we can have the opportunity to learn more. In this way we shall be more active and know the facts of life and the needs of our country. And these are the essentials in nation building.
Another important contribution we can make to our country is to give voluntary services to self-help projects. Self-help movement is an important actor in welding a true spirit of Guyanese Nationhood. It has been responsible for bringing people of various shades of colour, of varying racial origins, of different religious and political affliliations together as Guyanese, as they tackle various projects for the benefit of the communities in which they live. Through self-help, Guyanese have worked together from daybreak to night to build schools, roads, air-strips, bridges, community centres, recreation centres and the like throughout the country. This has saved Government, over the past four years, two million dollars in hard cash. This contribution is indeed what Guyana wants from us, and we can do our bit. Even if we cannot find time to participate in these projects we can, (at least) offer a substantial financial contribution.
Very closely connected to this, is the fact that if we are to serve our country we must not foster any political, racial or religious discrimination. We must be true Guyanese – not a Negro or an Indian, not a Portuguese, not a Chinese, not an Amerindian, not anything else but a Guyanese. We must not quarrel over religion nor must we hate each other because our poltical leader is a Negro or an Indian. We must dwell in unity in fulfilling our motto: "One people, One Nation, One Destiny."
Most important of all, if we are to love and serve our country we have got to set our feet the farthest in protecting our country from unjustified interference from other States and in maintaining its territory integrity. Venezuela is on our doorstep. What if there is an invasion in the near future? Must we stand up and see our beloved territory taken before our eyes? My God! We have got to throw off the cloak of cowardice and fight like bulls to defend our territory, or else we remain, as one politician remarked "hewers of wood and drawers of water." Guyana is a small nation, weak in arms, and we can through our love and devotion for our country overcome all enemies.
Guyana is ours; it depends on us for its prosperity. We, the young people, have got to enable it to play its full part in the world , and the greatest service we can give to her is our love, our labour, our devotion and our patriotism.