” Of those to whom much is given much is required.” John F. Kennedy
From the earliest days of our nation we have been gifted with a bountiful land, rich in resources, but greater still, we were filled with optimism and hope for the future.
While the Old World was weighed down by aristocracies, kings and despots, we flourished with free institutions. We were admired by those who sought freedom and we were admired for our diversity. We were never perfect, as it took a great civil war to rid ourselves of the inhumanity of having others bound in slavery, and we thrust aside in inhumane ways the native peoples that lived in America when we arrived. But regardless of our imperfection America represented for millions of people in the world a shining city on the hill, a beacon of opportunity for freedom and a new way of life.
Today, we stand frozen in mediocrity, a divided people. For thirty years we as a people have had a blind faith in the market place. We became obsessed with wealth creation and in the cult of privatization. Our rusting and crumbling roads and bridges have become symbols of our decay. Cities in the rust belt lay empty, the middle class is shrinking, small towns are dying, the poor are ever increasing and the rich grow richer. Truly these are the times that try men and women’s souls.
It is easy to be pessimistic and cynical, and to believe that tomorrow will not be better than today and that our children will not have a better life than the prior generation. But let us not wallow in self pity but rather work together for a better future.
Many of our founders worried about whether or not our system of government would last. They pondered and worried about whether man’s tendency to be led and man’s selfishness would lead to our doom.
Alexis de Tocqueville, an observer of America, once said ,” As one digs deeper into the national character of the Americans, one sees that they have sought the value of everything in this world only in the answer to this single question: how much money will it bring in?” This is an American peculiarity.
Today we witness this characteristic being played out. It has become all about me. The sales pitch that taxes are bad, that it is your money that government is spending and that you can spend it better than government, is a refrain we too often hear. Without taxes the street lights would go dark, food would not be inspected and we would still have dirty air and bad water.
The idea that absolute liberty can exist is a fiction. Government is needed to set rules and laws to manage bad behavior. We are not just individuals alone and free of responsibility for our fellow man.
What is needed is a new generation of leaders, not bought and paid for by special interests. What is needed is a recognition that government has a place in helping to improve the lives of all Americans. Leadership is required and what Americans need to recall and believe is that we each have a responsibility not only to ourselves and how we live our lives but to others less fortunate. We are a family, we are a town or community, we are a state and above all we are a nation. Let us live the dream that the Statue of Liberty quotes to us, and reaffirm our promise to have liberty and justice for all.
Abraham Lincoln said the Declaration of Independence, ” gave liberty not alone to the people of this country, but hope to all the world.” He continued by saying that it “gave promise that in due time the weights would be lifted from the shoulders of all men, and that all should have an equal chance.” This is the responsibility of government and each of us to insure that all citizens have a chance.
Franklin Roosevelt once said in darker days, ” We can not be content if some fraction of our people —whether it be one-third or one-fifth or one tenth-is ill-fed, ill clothed, ill housed, and insecure.”
In speaking of government and public servants one is reminded of two quotes, the Biblical admonition that “No man can serve two masters, for either he will hate one and love the other, or else he will hold to one and despise the other.”
John F. Kennedy said about public service,” All Americans seek a government in which no man holds to his own interest, and despises the public interest, and where all men serve only the public and love that master well.”
We have too many in public service today trying to serve two masters. We need to demand that they serve the public interest and not serve their personal interest.
It is indeed time to move forward and meet the challenges we have with hope and a renewed sense that better days are a head of us if we work together for the common good of all Americans. A President can not do what is necessary alone, we as citizens need to lead as well and to accept the responsibilities that come with citizenship.