restricted access Epilogue: An Open Letter to My Grandchildren (and Their Generation)
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Epilogue The energy, the faith, the devotion which we bring to this endeavor will light our country and all who serve it— and the glow from that fire can truly light the world. And so, my fellow Americans, Ask not what your country can do for you— Ask what you can do for your country. My fellow citizens of the world: Ask not what America will do for you, but what together we can do for the freedom of man. Finally, whether you are citizens of America or citizens of the world, ask of us the same high standards of strength and sacrifice which we ask of you. —president john f. kennedy, inaugural address, january 20, 1961 An Open Letter to My Grandchildren (and Their Generation) Dear Ben, Sam, Jill, Jay, Maggie, Will, Ruby, Emma and Faeve, The night I was elected to the US Senate more than a half century ago I told cheering supporters, “My fondest hope is that my election will be a signal for independent spirited young men and women of both parties to make politics of the Free State open politics, a politics of merit. I am hopeful that my election will serve as an invitation to these young men and women who aspire to public office to enter public life.”1 My fondest hope today is that this book will awaken and encourage some of you—my nine grandchildren, as well as others in your 1. Quoted in Donald Bremner, “Tydings Beats Beall; Democrats Take 6 of 8 House Seats,” Baltimore Sun, November 4, 1964. 340 EPILOGUE generation—to devote a portion of your lives to public service and help this wonderful country overcome the severe problems it currently faces. I do not really care if you do this work as a Democrat, as a Republican, or as an independent as long as you get involved and work diligently on the challenges facing our nation. I am proud of my elective public service and hope it represents what can be achieved when individuals are interested in working on behalf of the American people and are willing to stand up for what they believe is right. There is nothing our country needs more urgently now than for a new generation of young people—those who have recently graduated or are graduating now from high schools or colleges across our nation—to realize that you have a vital stake in how our government is run and that you can individually make a difference. Throughoutmycareer,Ihavebeenknownasaprogressiveorliberal, but what I am calling for in this letter to you is actually the argument of a conservative intent on protecting the freedoms, the free exchange, the traditional institutions, and the fundamental fabric of our democracy. Perhaps the most significant achievement of President John F. Kennedy ’s political career was his ability to inspire an entire generation of young people to commit their lives—or a major portion of their lives— to public service. In response, many of the sharpest young minds in the country flocked to Washington with the clear intent of making sure the American government was working for the benefit of the American people. Today our nation needs a new influx of bright young people equally committed to public service and determined to address and resolve the serious problems currently threatening our democracy and our nation. We need them in the White House, in the Congress, in state legislatures, and in federal, state, county, city, and town governmental bodies. The critical issues facing our nation are many, but it seems to me the most serious are these: (1) the debilitating and corrupting influence of money in politics; (2) the resulting paralysis within our Congress , in particular, but in our political processes in general; and (3) the lengthening list of serious national and global problems—climate change, immigration reform, the need for effective gun control, and the failure to provide financial support for infrastructure construction and maintenance, to name just four—that demand smart, innovative, and 341 AN OPEN LETTER TO MY GRANDCHILDREN (AND THEIR GENERATION) immediate attention, yet languish endlessly for lack of leadership and consensus. We must try to conserve and enhance the assets our generation inherited. Money in politics—the untold amounts of special interest dollars —is the major reason our system of democracy no longer works as it should. Hundreds of millions of dollars are spent annually on lobbying and contributions, both reported and unreported. This businessas -usual corruption robs everyday citizens of fair, honest...


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