Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Figure Of Speech

Antimetabole—a figure of speech: 

"Ask not what your country can do for you - ask what you can do for your country". 

I was only a few months old when John F. Kennedy spoke these words, but they've stayed with me, and my generation, for a lifetime. Speaking of the evils of the world, terrorism, and looming annihilation during an inordinately turbulent time, JFK delivered his address with eloquence and astonishing optimism. 

The above excerpt is likely the most remembered and oft quoted part of Kennedy's pivotal Inaugural Address. However, sacrifice is not what most of us want to hear about right now. Seems like we've been doing it for too long. We're ready for our country to start doing for us. 

But Kennedy's speech wasn't purely rhetoric, he was referring to centralized government, with the intent being to empower people—he was telling us, the new generation, not the government, to take it upon ourselves to rid the country and the world of man's common enemies.

A couple of days ago, Nance wrote this on her blog (regarding gun control):  "Significant issues will disappear only if we allow them to." She couldn't be more right.

"So let us begin anew—remembering on both sides that civility is not a sign of weakness, and sincerity is always subject to proof. Let us never negotiate out of fear. But let us never fear to negotiate." ~ JFK

Tonight, in Washingtonat the Kennedy Center for the Performing Artsas part of The Presidency of John F. Kennedy: A 50th Anniversary Celebration, cellist Yo-Yo Ma will perform a tribute to the Pablo Casals Concert in the Kennedy White House (which was given after a state dinner by the famous Spanish cellist, Casals, in 1961). It is sure to be a stunning performance.

"Let the word go forth from this time and place, to friend and foe alike, that the torch has been passed to a new generation of Americans..." 


  1. Coming from a Boston Irish family, those words have always been remembered in a sense just below scripture. Always good to remember the context, too.

    Yo-Yo Ma is one of my favorite people in the entire world. I think you know about my deep regard for Fred Rogers. Ma played at his memorial service. He did a rendition of "Tree, Tree, Tree" (if you're not familiar with it, a very simple melody composed by Rogers, and most would consider it far below Ma's talent) and he imbued it with a passion that made me cry big tears. Wonderful soul he is.

  2. That man really was inspirational. So was RFK. I wish people spent more time like this actually thinking about his words than just quoting them from time to time. Their speeches were some of the best ever written in English and should be studied more I think.

  3. as a whole i don't people have been sacrificing at all. in the past people made sacrifices at a time of war but now at a time of war people want lower taxes and more services from the government.

    i shudder to think what is going to happen when interest rates rise. servicing a multi trillion dollar debt whilst providing ever expanding entitlement programs is too scary for me.

  4. Suldog- Yo-Yo Ma is genius. I've seen Ma on Sesame Street, as well. And Fred? Let's sing it together now!

    Christopher- Yes, JFK was quite the orator & inspired so many. Interesting watching Obama last night. He has a lot of the same skills, but seems unwilling to meet tough matters head on. I wish he had addressed gun control issues. I'm getting a little annoyed by him.

    BP- We certainly aren't sacrificing like we did during the Great wars, but I hear so many people complaining now. And it's not so much that people have to live with less (the sacrifice), rather it's the reason WHY they're in this position.
    I agree whole heartedly w/you. We're going to have some much darker days ahead...

  5. Hi Jayne -- I came here from reading your comment on Ellen's blog. And I found Yo-Yo Ma playing The Mission, which is one of my favorite pieces of music (well, the whole soundtrack but especially the Gabriel's Theme motif) in the whole wide world. It's so beautiful and moving.

  6. I'm sure the Yo-Yo Ma performance was beautiful. Music has such a way of speaking to us all, eloquently.

  7. Meri- I weep every time I hear The Mission. It stirs something deep within.

    Joanne- I would have loved to see it. Yo-Yo Ma is one of those gifted musicians who is able to communicate not only through his cello, but also through what he says. He touches the hearts of many.