What You Can Do For Your Country

In just a few weeks, this presidential election will be over. How there can still be some undecided voters is beyond me, but there are. There also are, according to man-on-the-street interviews, some who don’t even know who the candidates are.

These are adults who can easily identify a soap opera actor, but not the vice president of the United States or speaker of the House.

These are the people who, in current TV ads, Hollywood stars are begging to go vote. It’s their precious right, they say.

Please, I say to the massively ill-informed, don’t vote.

There once was a modern president of the United States who said that personal responsibility was as important as rights. “My fellow Americans, ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country.” John F. Kennedy said those words in his January 1961 inaugural address – his only one. He called Americans to dream big, to act like world leader nation citizens, to explore the unknown, to do for their country.

Slowly but steadily, in the more than five decades since JFK spoke that powerful call to action, we have slid into a nation of people who have flipped his words around: Ask not what I can do for my country, but for what my country can do for me.

The ramifications of this “my rights” attitude is what defines this presidential election.


Because it is what will ultimately doom our nation financially for our children and our grandchildren. That is not political rhetoric, but solid fact. For the first time in our history, during this administration, America’s credit rating has been downgraded. Our national debt of $16 trillion, up approximately $5 trillion in three years, doesn’t even count unfunded future liabilities that are Medicare, Social Security and the debt.

Mitt Romney has said that unfunded promises made by the federal government amount to $520,000 per household. (PolitiFact Florida, www.politifact.com/flori-da, researched this statement and found it to be accurate.)

A USA Today report using 2010 figures explains these future debts:

Medicare has created an almost “$25 trillion liability over the lifetime of those now in the program as workers and retirees.” At $21.4 trillion, “Social Security’s long-term shortfall grows about $1.2 trillion annually – a sign of an imbalance between the number of young workers and older beneficiaries, according to the Social Security trustees’ annual reports.”

Then there’s the $16 trillion federal debt owed to China, Japan and the others who own us, financially speaking. There was a time when we could say, “We’re just not paying, and you can’t make us because we have bigger guns than you do.” But President Teddy Roosevelt’s “big stick” diplomacy is worthless if we hold the short stick, per planned defense spending cuts.

Romney and running mate Paul Ryan at least talk about the giant elephant in the middle of Washington. They’ve laid out a plan to save these programs and lower the debt. President Obama said on David Letterman’s show that he doesn’t pay attention to or know what the national debt is. What a shame.

But the real shame is that so many Americans are indifferent to this impending fiscal disaster.

Granted, everything is magnified during a presidential election when political noise is deafening and the news focus is the drama.

But this crisis isn’t about one man. President Obama has shown us how far a campaign hero can fall from the savior, uniter, job creator, hope-meister podium.

This is about us.

Last week when we witnessed more than 50 of our nation’s Medal of Honor recipients in Hawaii for their annual meeting, we see the kind of people America has always produced. That hero can exist in each of us as we look to ourselves for solutions and not always the government.

I’m ashamed of the future we’re bequeathing my grandchildren and yours. If we’re to recapture the nation our founders (and John Kennedy) envisioned, we need to look in the mirror first, get informed second, and then vote. In that order.