“Ask not what your country can do for you. Ask what you can do for your country.”
—John Fitzgerald Kennedy.
Those words, spoken by President Kennedy during his inaugural address, resonated with the entire country. They told the world what freedom truly means: being able to choose what you want to do for your nation. Rather than the dictates of the state telling people what to do, it is the people stepping forward. It is the people asking what we can do for our great nation that gave us our liberty, to ensure the continued liberty of our children.
July 4th is a special day. It is a day to celebrate something fought for and won a long time ago in the United States. It is a day when all of us get together with friends and family to celebrate our nation and our freedom. But we have lost sight of what freedom really means. President Theodore Roosevelt once said, “Americanism means the virtues of courage, honor, justice, truth, sincerity and hardihood—the virtues that made America. The things that will destroy America are prosperity-at-any-price, peace-at-any-price, safety first instead of duty first, the love of soft living and the get-rich-quick theory of life.”
As a nation and a people, we still have courage and honor. This is evident in those who willingly join the armed forces, those who go overseas to fight for our liberty and safety, those who go out to vote, or to demonstrate for what they believe in.
What we’ve lost are justice, truth and sincerity—the other virtues which made America great.
Truth and sincerity from our elected leaders are a long-forgotten memory. It is no longer evident in our news organizations whose purpose it is to expose untruths and insincerity; they now report only on what benefits them. We’ve become a nation of prosperity-at-any-price, peace-at-any-price and safety rather than duty first. We’ve made soft living into an art. Get-rich-quickly is a perfected strategy, and it is the norm for our elected officials, sports figures, entertainers and business heads, who use it as a way to gauge success.
We have forgotten the words of Benjamin Franklin that freedom at any price is not freedom at all: “Those who would give up essential Liberty, to purchase a little temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety.”
All of us take liberty and freedom for granted because it hasn’t been taken away from us, yet. On the other side of the world people are fighting for freedom, while here we are losing some of our alienable rights to people claiming that what they are doing is good for the country. No one is doing what is good for the average citizen, or for our children. Few people can afford to retire; most have to continue working to put food on the table and to ensure the survival of the “job creators.”
Freedom is a chance to be better, a chance for your kids to have a better life than you did. Freedom is not making sacrifices so the leaders can make us feel safe. Abraham Lincoln said it best when he said that democracy is the government “of the people, by the people, for the people.” We have strayed far from those principles. Our motto now is “democracy and safety at any price and the safety for the job creators: the corporations.”
To achieve those new ideals, we have become a nation of laws and regulations—laws that are badly written and randomly enforced. Certain citizens who break the laws are given harsh sentences, while others are forgiven for their mistakes. Apparently corporations can do no wrong, (can never do anything illegal), but are allowed to make mistakes and pay small fines to show they’ve learned their lesson.
Benjamin Franklin once said, “Where liberty dwells, there is my country.”
Does anyone know where liberty dwells these days, or where it will dwell in the days to come?
[Abdul Jaludi is a resident of Milford, PA.]