Ask Not What Your Country Can Do For You

1502 words - 7 pages

Ask Not What Your Country Can Do For You

John Fitzgerald Kennedy was sworn in as the 35th President of the United States of America at noon on January 20th, 1961. He then delivered his inaugural speech in The National Center for Public Policy Research's Archive of Historical Documents. Kennedy’s speech, one that Thurston Clarke referred to as “...the speech that changed America.” may quite possibly have done just that. Kennedy’s speech sought to convey many messages to the American people. It, at the time, speaks of a world which is “very different now” and notes the importance and prevalence of change in American society and the rest of the world. The most important theme taken from ...view middle of the document...

Kennedy’s speech was monumentally important because of the way it seemed to inspire and captivate an audience of Americans that was willing to participate in Kennedy’s vision of a social citizenry that promoted activism and cooperation with one another in order to attain a greater degree of freedom and liberty for all those not only outside the United States but also within it. One of the most important events, showing themes in American society that relate back to the message in Kennedy’s speech, was the Civil Rights Movement. The Civil Rights Movement involved the coming together of individuals and activist groups who formed demonstrations and held rallies in order to voice and make clear the need for progressive action and thought in response to the largely felt sentiment of racism and bigotry that still remained clear after the abolition of slavery. During the 1960’s people began to care more and more about the injustices and infringements on personal freedoms that were suffered by African-Americans. U.S citizens in growing numbers and of all ethnicities, social classes and genders, where before they were almost exclusively African-American, began to actively demonstrate against segregation laws and made it clear that if personal freedoms were to be distinctly upheld in the United States there would be a need for integration, acceptance and equal treatment of African-Americans. These actions are a direct reflection of the kind of attitudes and behaviour that Kennedy was alluding to in his inaugural speech, and they continued all through and well beyond the 1960’s.
While Kennedy’s speech relates well to the Civil Rights Movement and African-American liberation, it can also be seen as having a strong relation to women’s rights and The Sexual Revolution. Throughout the 1960’s and even more so towards the end, woman’s rights activism was prevalent as reflected by the formation of several woman’s rights organizations. The birth control pill as well as broadening perspectives on sex and its social acceptability where two other factors that helped woman feel a sense of sexual freedom and liberation. Women were making themselves heard and fighting the battles they needed in order to attain a greater sense of liberation and freedom. The messages in Kennedy’s speech are also directly reflected in the increasing acceptability and lowered stigma to homosexuality. People were becoming much more open and courageous in expressing their sexual orientations, and movements meant to advance the acceptability and freedoms of homosexuals in particular are reflections on the values and attitudes being encouraged in Kennedy’s speech. The pioneering of this type of social activism is exactly the kind of behaviour and positive improvement that Kennedy meant when he said “what you can do for your country.”
Kennedy’s conceptualization of freedom and liberty encompassed many areas, including economic and political equality. In his speech he says that American...

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