While I suspect most here do not sympathize with his politics, and more than a few have expressed their disdain for the Kennedy clan as a whole, I think it would be remiss not to mention the 50th anniversary of one of the more significant inaugural addresses of the 20th century.

There really wasn’t enough of a Kennedy administration to really assess what kind of President he was and could have been. There were certainly mistakes, perhaps none bigger than the Bay of Pigs invasion, which nearly and perhaps should have crippled his entire agenda. But like any great boxer, Kennedy picked himself up off the mat, shook off the cobwebs, and went right back at his opponents.

As magnificently he failed at the Bay of Pigs, his leadership during the Cuban Missile Crisis a year and a half later kept our country out of mutually assured destruction in a nuclear war with the Soviet Union while not backing down to an enemies demands under duress.

His vision for the people of this nation to work for each other is something that many people today could stand to understand a little better. And the seminal line of the speech is something that I believe rings true today, and is something that everyone, Democrat or Republican, American or not, should consider:

And so, my fellow Americans: ask not what your country can do for you – ask what you can do for your country.

My fellow citizens of the world: ask not what America will do for you, but what together we can do for the freedom of man.


  • Steve Feinstein

    I agree that Kennedy’s service was too short to really evaluate his Presidency.

    Certainly, his tax-cutting, pro-business, pro-military, and his “pro intervention on the behalf of freedom” stances would today be regarded as more Republican than Democrat. Those stances alone demonstrate how far left today’s Democrats have moved, in stark contrast to the fairy tale that “commentators” like Bill Maher try to put forth, namely that Democrats have stayed the same, and Republicans have moved to the right. If one willfully ignores (or is completely ignorant of) history, does that mean it never actually happened?

    In baseball, there is a rule that says, “A pitcher can’t pitch himself into a save situation.”

    A save in baseball occurs when the relief pitcher comes into the game with a lead of three runs or less, and finishes the game without allowing the other team to tie the score (or, worse, win the game). In other words, if the reliever successfully protects a slim lead, he is credited with a “Save.”

    Fair enough.

    But…..if the reliever comes into the game with his team leading by 6 runs—a non-save situation—and then proceeds to allow the other team to score 4 runs, the fact that his team is now leading by only 2 runs does NOT make it a save situation for that reliever. Even if he goes on to finish the game and protect that 2 run lead, he does NOT get credit for a “Save.” After all, it was his fault that the game went from a 6-run lead down to a 2-run lead. That’s what we mean by, “A pitcher can’t pitch himself into a save situation.”

    In the opinion of many historians, it was Kennedy’s bungled handling of the Bay of Pigs that led Khrushchev to perceive weakness on Kennedy’s part, and encouraged him (Khrushchev) to attempt to put missiles in Cuba to begin with. In other words, with the Bay of Pigs, Kennedy let a 6-run lead deteriorate down to a 2-run lead, emboldening the USSR to initiate their mischief.

    The fact that Kennedy managed to wriggle out of disaster and not blow the game entirely does NOT afford him the credit for a “Save.” The Cuban missile predicament could quite plausibly be characterized as being of Kennedy’s own making.

    • Troy La Mana

      I agree, along with his eventual death. If he would have backed the plan completely I think he would have served a full term, maybe two.

    • Gary Russell

      Nice analogy, Steve.

  • http://twitter.com/theatomicmom East of Eden

    When I was still teaching I’d always show ‘The Missles of October’ when we got to the 1960s/Cold War. The kids always loved it, and it’s something I’d recommend to any student of history


    I do like the quote you cited as well, David. It embodies the true spirit of America, service above self.