Just over 51 years ago, a young former Senator from Massachusetts was inaugurated as the President of the United States of America. John F. Kennedy was the youngest person elected president, and the first Roman Catholic to hold the office. During his inaugural address, he said some things that have continued to live in our collective memory. Things like “…the belief that the rights of man come not from the generosity of the state, but from the hand of God” and “Ask not what your country can do for you – ask what you can do for your country” and “All this will not be finished in the first 100 days. Nor will it be finished in the first 1,000 days, nor in the life of this Administration, nor even perhaps in our lifetime on this planet. But let us begin.”
Just over 3 years ago, a young former Senator from Illinois was inaugurated as the President of the United States of America. Barack H. Obama was the 4th youngest person elected president, the first president to have been born in Hawaii, and the first president of African American ancestry. During his President’s inaugural address, he said things that were very similar to the previous President. Things such as “What is required of us now is a new era of responsibility” and “…those of us who manage the public’s dollars will be held to account.” He also said “…starting today, we must pick ourselves up, dust ourselves off, and begin again the work of remaking America.”
What we are now experiencing in our Nation’s Capital is as far away from the ideals of either of these two Presidents as it possibly can be. There is no “new era of responsibility” in Washington today. Instead we are experiencing an era of finger-pointing and name-calling. The Congress, which holds overall responsibility for the public’s dollars, is not accepting the accountability that comes with the responsibility of fiduciary oversight. In fact, they are not even accepting the responsibility. In the Senate, men and women whom the President has appointed to lead Federal departments have been waiting for Senate confirmation while the senators filibuster in order to prove who really bestows the rights of mankind.
The Judicial branch of our government has become the place to go if you can’t get your way in the House or Senate. Just over a year ago, the Supreme Court of the United States of America, in a 5-4 decision, ruled that corporations are protected by the First Amendment to the Constitution in that Congress can make no law “abridging the freedom of speech.” At no previous time in our Country’s history has a corporation, or for that matter, any non-sentient entity, been included in this provision. Yet now, corporations are allowed to donate unrestricted amounts of money to political action committees that are separate from a candidate.
And in the White House, our President, in what appears to me to be a desperate bid to hold on to his job, is saying to the citizenry “Ask not what you can do for your country, ask what your country can do for you.”
So to all of our elected Federal officials, and to the justices of the Supreme Court, I pose this question: When will you all start doing your jobs in a manner that reflects President Kennedy’s statement that “All this will not be finished in the first 100 days. Nor will it be finished in the first 1,000 days, nor in the life of this Administration, nor even perhaps in our lifetime on this planet?” When will you resume the work? When will you do what you have been chosen to do?
We do not need partisan fighting for power. We don’t care whose is bigger. We don’t want to know why you can’t get your jobs done. We have elected you, or in the case of the judiciary, you have been appointed, to run this country, to do your jobs and represent the people, not self-interest. You have been chosen to represent the people and not the corporations.
In his address at the dedication of the Federal Cemetery at Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, President Lincoln called upon the nation to ensure that “…government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.” It is time – now, today – for each of us to renew our commitment to government of the people, by the people, for the people.
Whether you are conservative, liberal, progressive, traditional, Republican, Democrat, Red, Yellow, Black, White, Daughter of the American Revolution, an immigrant who just came across the border yesterday, or any other person in this great Nation of ours, the time is now for us to take responsibility for ourselves if we are able, and to care for those in our society who are not able to care for themselves.
The time for finger-pointing and name-calling is over. We must seek responsibility and take responsibility for our actions. We must all stop focusing on our individual wants and desires, and focus on the needs of our cities, counties, states, commonwealths, territories and ultimately our Nation.
So to once again quote President Kennedy “Let the word go forth from this time and place, to friend and foe alike, that the torch has been passed to a new generation of Americans…tempered by war, disciplined by a hard and bitter peace, proud of our ancient heritage, and unwilling to witness or permit the slow undoing of those human rights to which this Nation has always been committed, and to which we are committed today at home and around the world.”