Given Impeached President Donald J. Trump’s dark, divisive and chaotic approach to governing our country detailed during the GOP convention last week, it’s time to showcase what someone who cares deeply about “we the people” will do for America.
Many would say all we need to do is look back to President Barack Obama’s tenure in office. Highlight all that he and Joe Biden, his vice president and Trump’s opponent this election year, accomplished during eight years governing the country.
That would be too easy and would only give the current White House occupant ammunition for his re-election effort since his supporters will never accept that the Obama/Biden team saved our country from financial collapse and hammered out a health-care plan for tens of millions of our fellow country men and women.
No, we need to turn back the clock to the 1960s, to a time political historians often refer to as “Camelot.” A time when a newly elected president, John F. Kennedy, stood at a lectern on the steps of the Capitol and issued a clarion call to all Americans:
“Ask not what your country can do for you — ask what you can do for your country.”
During that same historic inaugural address, he added:
“If a free society cannot help the many who are poor, it cannot save the few who are rich.”
Today, Trump and his speech writers would most likely translate Kennedy’s timeless challenge to our country this way: “Ask not what you can do for your country, but what you can do for me.”
He would probably twist Kennedy’s other statement around like this: “If our society cannot help the few who are rich and support me, we shouldn’t bother trying to save the many who are poor.”
A prime example of Trump’s total disregard for the well-being of Americans is his continued lack of leadership in fighting COVID-19, the deadly virus that has to date killed more than 180,000 Americans.
Biden as the Democratic presidential candidate this year is carrying the torch first lighted by Kennedy some 60 years ago that puts country before party, truth before lies, facts before fiction, belief in the talents and ethics of all Americans instead of currying favor with representatives of governments of sworn enemies.
Sure, many would say Kennedy could give good speeches. He was eloquent beyond any modern-day president, especially the current Oval Office occupant.
But what did Kennedy do for the country?
- He pulled the country out of a recession with a number of reforms. He enacted the most significant tax reforms since the New Deal was carried out, including a new investment tax credit. GDP, which had grown by an average of only 2.2% per annum during his predecessor Eisenhower’s presidency, expanded by an average of 5.5% from early 1961 to late 1963, when Kennedy was assassinated.
- He established the Peace Corps on March 1, 1961, by Executive Order 10924. It was a program through which American volunteers would help underdeveloped nations in areas such as education, farming, health care and construction. The organization grew to 5,000 members by March 1963 and 10,000 the following year. Since its formation to 2016, about 220,000 Americans have joined the Peace Corps and served in 140 countries. Its initiatives include eradicating malaria in Africa and responding to crises such as the 1994 Rwandan genocide.
- He averted nuclear war through negotiations with Soviet Union leader Nikita Khrushchev. The Cuban Missile Crisis started on Oct. 16, 1962, due to placement of nuclear missiles in Cuba by the Soviet Union. It was the closest the Cold War came to escalating into a full scale nuclear war. After a period of tense negotiations started by a message from Khrushchev to JFK on Oct. 26, the Cuban Missile Crisis came to an end on Oct. 28, 1962. The Soviet Union agreed to dismantle its weapons in Cuba and bring them back, and while the United States agreed that it would not invade Cuba without provocation.
- He initiated the alliance for progress for development of Latin America. Kennedy initiated the Alliance for Progress in 1961 with the aim to establish economic cooperation between the U.S. and Latin America. Between 1962 and 1967, the U.S. supplied $1.4 billion per year to Latin America for the development of the region. Growth in regional output per capita in Latin America in the 1960s was 2.6%, exceeding the program’s goal of 2.5%. Adult illiteracy was reduced, and there were improvements in housing, financial institutions, tax laws and administration.
You get the picture. Kennedy was so much more than just words, empty campaign promises, and high-minded visions of what life in America and around the world might be like some day. He was a man of action.
Biden, like Kennedy and so unlike Trump, has provided detailed plans of how he and his running mate, U.S. Sen. Kamala Harris plan to work tirelessly to bring America back together, to return it to the global force it was before Jan. 20, 2017.
Biden is carrying the torch, the ideal of an America that cares about all of its people, lighted by Kennedy. It’s a torch that burns bright for a strong, united country, not a dark, divided nation that, under Trump, is falling into the hands of sworn enemies.
Kennedy, once again, said it best in ’63:
“A man may die, nations may rise and fall, but an idea lives on.”
That big idea — of America, even the world, as one people, looking after the weak — is the idea that John F. Kennedy projected, that still clings to him today.
That big idea clings to Joe Biden and Kamala Harris in 2020.