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Reflections: What’s missing in America? Idealism

My fellow Americans, ask not whether you’re coming from the left or the right; ask where you are going

By Mike Zielinski, Columnist

Thursday, January 4, 2018

You know what’s missing in America?


Once upon a time, it defined us. No longer. It’s gone, just like the covered wagon and the Edsel.

President John F. Kennedy espoused idealism without illusion, an approach that brought together vision and practicality.

If I had one wish for our country in 2018, it is that such idealism could once again be an integral part of our DNA.

Every January I think of Kennedy’s famous inaugural address 57 years ago, specifically this memorable sentence, “And so, my fellow Americans, ask not what your country can do for you; ask what you can do for your country.”

I call those words to live by, now more than ever.

Kennedy’s inaugural address was brief -- a mere 14 minutes -- but memorable, punctuated by that indelible line exhorting Americans to pursue careers and lives guided by public service.

Lines are more than a just a string of words. They have a context. The best lines are literally lifelines.

JFK had a mystical instinct that enabled him to connect with an audience. Part of it was his charm and good looks straight from central casting. Part of it was his eloquence.

Kennedy is immortalized as one of the greatest orators in American history, blending his sense of wit with his diplomatic splendor.

Despite the stone-dust pallor of more than a half-century, his oft-cited challenge for Americans to take responsibility for something larger than themselves, to contribute to something larger than themselves, should leap to the next throat … and the next one … and the next one.

Even until this day.

Every wave must begin with one molecule of water and every fire with a single spark.

That single JFK sentence, buoyed by time’s retrospection, could launch a new wave of idealistic, not narcissistic, Americans.

If we only took the time to listen to it echo through the decades.