Remembering JFK And The Meaning Of Citizenship


“And so, my fellow Americans: ask not what your country can do for you – ask what you can do for your country.”

President John F. Kennedy uttered those immortal words 50 years ago today as he neared the conclusion of his first, and only, inaugural address.

Kennedy’s inauguration symbolized new hope and energy in dangerous times, as the “torch” of leadership was “passed to a new generation of Americans” in the face of the sobering reality that man held “in his mortal hands the power to abolish…all forms of human life” by means of the nuclear weapons that had proliferated following World War II.

“Ask not what your country can do for you – ask what you can do for your country.”

Who asks such a question anymore? 

Today the more common question – especially here in the State of Madiganistan (as Chicago Tribune columnist John Kass calls it) and the County of Crook – is one that another Tribune columnist, the legendary Mike Royko, proposed as the unofficial motto of the City of Chicago: “Ubi est mea?” (“Where’s mine?”)

While that “Where’s mine?” attitude definitely dominates the Domain of the Daleys, the county and the state, our own community is far from immune to it.

For example, in just the last few years we have had a number of business owners hit up the City treasury for a few hundred thousand dollars to dress up their privately-owned buildings, compliments of a ridiculous Façade Improvement Program created by penny-and-pound foolish City Council back in the days when it still had 14 aldermen and should have known better. 

Similarly, a number of private community groups have shown up at City Hall asking “Ubi est mea?” and then helping themselves to hundreds of thousands of City dollars because either they prefer not to make the effort to solicit enough funds from private donors, or not enough private donors see sufficient merit in these groups’ activities to warrant their voluntary private donations.

And our favorite private bread and circus provider, Taste of Park Ridge NFP (“Taste Inc.”), has sucked tens of thousands of taxpayer dollars out of the City treasury to run Taste of Park Ridge under a totally irresponsible, exclusive no-bid, no contract, no accountability arrangement orchestrated by former mayor Howard Frimark back in 2005.

“Ask not what your country can do for you – ask what you can do for your country.”  

When it comes to the operation of City government, that question surely isn’t being asked in Park Ridge’s 3rd Ward, where not one person had the sense of civic duty to file for the City Council seat being vacated by Ald. Don Bach.  Those residents should be ashamed, except that they seem to be pretty shameless when it comes to aldermanic elections – as evidenced by the fact that we could find no record of even one contested 3rd Ward aldermanic race during the past 15 years, before those folks reached this new low.

That puts the 3rd Ward at the bottom of the contested election list, one notch below the 2nd Ward – for which we could find records of only one contested race during that same 15 year period. 

At a time when our City appears to be facing its worst economic crisis in decades following years of lax borrow-and-spend management, it is heartening to see that at least a few of our citizens have not shrunk from that challenge and will have their names on the April ballot.  Still others have stepped up to serve on City boards, commissions and task forces.

But if we ever hope to get a kind of government other than what the incompetent, the self-serving and the outright corrupt in public office produce for the special interests instead of for the common good, we must take Kennedy’s words to heart and get more involved.

“Ask not what your country can do for you – ask what you can do for your country.”  

In that vein, we wish to take this opportunity to recognize Marine Capt. Anthony “Tony” Friel, a Park Ridge resident who is doing what he can for his country by once again placing himself in harm’s way, this time in Afghanistan.

Godspeed, Tony.

To read or post comments, click on title.

4 comments so far

Best wishes to Capt. Friel. Semper Fi.

His service over there should be an inspiration to the rest of us to be more committed to our service over here.

“…and the glow from that fire can truly light the world.”

The 7th ward has had a lot of contested races, including a 4 candidate race in 2003.

LOL. Ask not what your country can do for you – ask what your state, city, local party and politicians can do for your museum!


Why not your art gallery, your planetarium and your aquarium, too?

EDITOR’S NOTE: What are you two talking about?

Leave a comment
Line and paragraph breaks automatic, e-mail address never displayed, HTML allowed: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>


(optional and not displayed)