Ask Not of the U.S. Government

Photo portrait of John F. Kennedy, President o...

Photo portrait of John F. Kennedy, President of the United States. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Anyone who confuses the term: “U.S. Government” with “United States of America” is probably not thinking very clearly. To illustrate the point, replace the words “your country” in President Kennedy’s inaugural speech of 1961, and you have: “Ask not what the U.S. Government can do for you, ask what you can do for the U.S. Government.” See what I mean? You could make a start by offering to pay more taxes. Maybe you should just let them do whatever they like. Would that help? Broadly speaking, one can divide the country into two general categories, although a mix exists where these categories merge.


Firstly, there are those who are motivated, self-reliant, and participate actively in planning and directing their lives. They play hard, learn hard, and work hard. These are the people who make an effort to achieve success (to the best of their abilities) and to find acceptance, if not respect, in the community and amongst their friends. Some are more successful than others. That might be due to special talents, or long hours of hard work, or a combination of both. The fact that they can succeed is an incentive to do better. They thus achieve more wealth and satisfaction in life. Very few are satisfied with their lot in life; but they have the freedom to strive for better conditions and greater success if they wish. Some would rather not, and are happy to have found a level of effort and success that satisfies them, although they would always wish for more. Sometimes a few in this category of the population fall into times of hardship. They need assistance of one kind or another. If they had not planned for contingencies, like savings, a health plan, retirement plan, etc. they would be very grateful for assistance, or a loan, until they can regain their footage. Fortunately, there are those in this group of people who have the means and concern to run organizations that would help those who are less fortunate than they are.

Most people in this group see life as it is. They realize that they are responsible for their own success, but share a responsibility to those less fortunate. They actively participate in the community, keep the law, and respect authority. They contribute to the economy, politics, and defense. They happily support worthy charities and causes. They partake in the running of the community and their country. When their country needs them, they respond. When their liberty is threatened, they take note, and defend it. These people realize that they ARE the nation, and that the Government is accountable to them. They thus support the government and also monitor its accountability, and make the necessary changes through the correct channels, not least – at election time. If their country needs them – they are ready.

Then, secondly, there are those who expect the government to do almost everything for them. These are the people who expect financial assistance for many of the expenses of life: jobs, personal income, accommodation, food, health aid, transport infrastructure, traffic management, environmental issues, management of natural resources, commerce, the economy, and the nation’s finance. They even count on entertainment and leisure to be catered for them. That’s pretty comprehensive. They expect so much from the government without stopping to think where that would all come from. One very “knowledgeable” citizen responded to that question raised by a street TV interviewer by stating that it all came from “Obama’s stash.” The thinking of this group is not only unrealistic, but reveals a mentality that the world owes them a living, and that they are entitled. They demonstrate an attitude of resignation to life, and an acceptance of their position without doing anything to improve their lot. Like blotting paper, they just absorb what they can. It shows a lack of ambition, motivation and self-confidence, not to mention a total lack of the will to exert themselves for their own good. Then they blame others for their situation. Others have to take care of them – and that means the government.

There is a third group, who we shall discount for the purpose of this article, who are from neither of the two foregoing groups of people. They are the ones who make a dishonest living on the backs of the rest. These are the people who use others to get what they want through opportunities for deception, forgery, extortion, violence, theft or robbery. Drug dealers create a dependency from which to capitalize. These are the criminally minded, who despise the weak and vulnerable, while fearing those stronger than they are. Their lives are completely centered on themselves without a concern for the community. They do not expect anything, but merely take whatever they can.

President Kennedy’s challenge will have real meaning for the first category of the population. There is a willingness among true patriots to do what is right and necessary for the good of the country and the community. They will be ready to step into the breech when called upon or see the need; not for the government, but for their country.

The second group already expects the government and community to provide for them because they have become dependent upon the government. They care not whence the funds come, but feel that those who achieved the most are in their debt because they have so little. This attitude deprives the first group of their heritage as free citizens and also deprives them of any aspiration or incentive to strive for accomplishment. For them “leveling the playing field” is all that matters, thus depriving the nation of providers. Eventually the supply will drain out completely – like in Greece.

Certain governments nurture the second group. That’s how they stay in power. Those are the people who will make sure that the government continues to provide for them because they need the government the way it is. Ask not? Whose asking? They expect it now. During 2010 we heard frequent references to voluntary or mandatory community service, and how that was imperative. Were they expecting that from the second group of the population? There seems to be a reverse style of thinking there.

Here’s my take on it. The government works for us, the country. We are a republic for whom the government is of the people, by the people and for the people. Socialist governments and those who desire to depend on the government will not understand that. If our republic government was healthy, President Kennedy’s challenge would ring true: “ask not what your country can do for you – ask what you can do for your country.” Kennedy was a Democrat, but that didn’t sound socialistic. He didn’t just stop there, he added:ask not what America will do for you, but what together we can do for the freedom of man.”

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