Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

Marking the anniversary of Kennedy’s assassination & reflecting on a Presidential quote November 22, 2013

Dallas, Texas, 12:30 P.M. November 22, 1963: The President has been shot!

American flag edited

TODAY, ON THE 50TH ANNIVERSARY of President John F. Kennedy’s assassination, we’ll be swamped with news coverage and memories recalled. Where were you when you heard the news?

I was inside a classroom at Vesta Elementary School in rural southwestern Minnesota. That’s it. I don’t remember my reaction or that of my teacher or my parents. But I had only recently turned seven, old enough to understand, but young enough that details did not imprint upon my memory.

My husband, though, remembers the phone ringing in the one-room country school he attended in North Dakota and the teacher’s announcement that the President had been shot.

On the day of Kennedy’s funeral, the Helbling family relocated to central Minnesota. I expect that for a 7-year-old, moving hundreds of miles away from extended family and friends was more emotionally gripping than the death of the President.

So, if I don’t have better memories than that to share, why am I writing anything at all today? Well, listening to the radio this morning, I heard this famous Kennedy quote: Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country.

That got me thinking.

And then I read Bob Collins’ online NewsCut column over at Minnesota Public Radio (you really ought to read this daily if you don’t already). Collins also featured that quote in his morning 5×8 list.

That got me thinking even more.

It seems to me that today we expect our country to do too much for us. I don’t want to get into a heated political discussion here. But just consider how government, more and more, is intruding into our lives on so many levels with this law and that law, this government program and that government program. Frankly, it scares me.

Given the erosion of self-sufficiency in our society, it might do all of us some good to reflect today on Kennedy’s words and ask: What can I do for my country (or my community, church, neighbor, a stranger)?

I suppose that seems contrary to self-sufficiency. Allow me to clarify. I’m not anti-government or anti helping others. We need government assistance programs and laws that protect the vulnerable and those in need. We need nonprofits and charities and individuals to assist others.

But there seems to be a pervasive attitude, even expectation, among many Americans that government should solve all of our problems. And that just does not sit right with me.

Thoughts?

© Copyright 2013 Audrey Kletscher Helbling