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Not What Your Country Can Do

About eight years ago, this phrase was part of a speech by the late President, John F. Kennedy. I am sure we all know what Mr. Kennedy was referring to. The entire sentence goes: “Ask not what your country can do for you; but what you can do for your country.”
I am not about to discuss at this time our obligations and services to our country as such. Instead, I would like to compare our potential services in relation to our country to service to an organization which is even closer – our church. Rendering service to our country is really something to be commended, of course. However, we as young people do not always have clear-cut opportunities to serve our country in the expected ways. I do think, though, that a lot of good opportunities to serve our church do present themselves every year.
It has been said in the past that the majority of young people in our organizations are apathetic. The world “apathetic” means inactive, not showing emotion, not being involved in various activities. Sometimes it has also been inferred that because we as young people do not work hard enough at our projects and programs, they are not always successes. The people who say such things are talking about you; they are talking about me. I do not agree with them, and I know that you do not think that the majority of us are apathetic, disinterested young people.
All that we have to do to refute this apathy nonsense is to point out the real effort our young people put out to make the recent convention the tremendous success it was. Look again at the past efforts to finance other conventions, to publish our magazine, to make our projects and parties successes. These accomplishments are because of young people who worked and sacrificed for them.
Today we have even greater goals than ever before. To realize our goals we as young people need money in every greater quantities. Of course we as young people cannot now rest on our laurels. The efforts of the past do not really bear directly on the present and future as far as our organizations are concerned. We know that in order to attain our goals we have to campaign and work for them.
I would like to take this chance to encourage all of you as young people to become more involved in all of the activities of our churches. I would suggest that by working just as hard for next convention as you did for the last one is an excellent way of becoming more involved. Of course, many of us are already involved, at present, in various activities. This is good. The key to becoming involved in the long run, however, is to take a direct interest in the affairs of your society. Even the small and seemingly insignificant activity should be carried out with vigor. The small activities are, after all, small but vital cogs in your organization and your church.
The question arises, though, how does one become more enthusiastic about the activities and programs of his society? First of all, a person should work for a certain goal. He should make his society’s goal his goal. A young person must be willing to work for the good of the whole organization. Secondly, and following from this, is the feeling of accomplishment and success a young person should expect to be generated by working with others toward a goal. A young person just does not realize the pleasure and satisfaction that can be had by working with others, unless he actually does work with others.
I say this as a challenge – see for yourselves the sense of accomplishment that working in a young people’s organization brings. What can you do for your society, for your Federation of young people? Be willing to work and sacrifice for your organization, your society. Be involved, in as much as you can, and count it a privilege to be a doer among other young people. Remember – ask not what your society can do for you, but what you can do for your society.

Originally Published in:
Vol. 30 No. 1 March 1970