4 July 2012
Since this country was founded, each generation of Americans has been
summoned to give testimony to its national loyalty. The graves of young
Americans who answered the call to service surround the globe.
Now the trumpet summons us again—not as a call to bear arms, though arms
we need; not as a call to battle, though embattled we are—but a call to bear the
burden of a long twilight struggle, year in and year out, "rejoicing in hope,
patient in tribulation"—a struggle against the common enemies of man:
tyranny, poverty, disease, and war itself.
Can we forge against these enemies a grand and global alliance, North and South,
East and West, that can assure a more fruitful life for all mankind?
Will you join in that historic effort?
In the long history of the world, only a few generations have been granted
the role of defending freedom in its hour of maximum danger. I do not shrink
from this responsibility—I welcome it. I do not believe that any of us would
exchange places with any other people or any other generation. The energy, the
faith, the devotion which we bring to this endeavor will light our country and
all who serve it—and the glow from that fire can truly light the world.
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.
Finally, whether you are citizens of America or citizens of the world, ask
of us here the same high standards of strength and sacrifice which we ask of you.
With a good conscience our only sure reward, with history the final judge of our
deeds, let us go forth to lead the land we love, asking His blessing and His help,
but knowing that here on earth God's work must truly be our own.
JFK - Friday, 20 January, 1961