Friday, November 23, 2012

Using Our Backbone Not Our Wishbone

In President John F. Kennedy's Inaugural Address, on January 20, 1961, he said " ... ask not what your country can do for you — ask what you can do for your country."

That quote came to mind as I was reading an apparent news article my sister "liked" on Facebook. It was a message from a community member to it's teen population:

Northland College principal John Tapene has offered the following words from a judge who regularly deals with youth.
     ”Always we hear the cry from teenagers ‘What can we do, where can we go?’
     "My answer is this: Go home, mow the lawn, wash the windows, learn to cook, build a raft, get a job, visit the sick, study your lessons, and after you’ve finished, read a book. Your town does not owe you recreational facilities and your parents do not owe you fun.
     "The world does not owe you a living, you owe the world something. You owe it your time, energy and talent so that no one will be at war, in poverty or sick and lonely again. In other words, grow up, stop being a cry baby, get out of your dream world and develop a backbone, not a wishbone. Start behaving like a responsible person. You are important and you are needed. It’s too late to sit around and wait for somebody to do something someday. Someday is now and that somebody is you!"
Whether or not it was directed at teenagers, is it not fitting for all of us? We are all important, and we are all needed. Someday is now, and that somebody is us.

The month of November brings to mind two holidays for me: Veteran's Day and Thanksgiving. Both are about a sense of gratitude to those who gave something dear for us to be here.

So on top of sense of civil duty to contribute to our community, may I also add we have a debt of gratitude to those who have created what we have today, and remind ourselves of the obligation to value it and take care of it. I'd suggest if not just for our moral sense, if not just for our children, to include in our motivation our deep respect for those who "... gave their lives that this nation might live." (From President Abraham Lincoln's Gettysburg Address on November 19, 1863) and those in our community at all levels that make sacrifices on a routine basis to do the right thing.

As I go to mow my own lawn, I'll end with another quote from President John F. Kennedy from the same inaugural speech quoted above: "With a good conscience our only sure reward, with history the final judge of our deeds, let us go forth to lead the land we love ..."

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