Letter: In 1961, JFK challenged Americans to sacrifice or commit to a larger vision. His challenge couldn’t be more important today.

President John F Kennedy gives his inaugural address at the Capitol in Washington, on Jan. 20, 1961, after he took oath of office. Listening in front row of inaugural seats, from left, are, Vice President Lyndon B. Johnson, Richard M. Nixon, Kennedy's campaign opponent, Sen. John Sparkman of Alabama, and former President Harry Truman. (AP Photo)

Hate speech and misinformation fills our airwaves today more than at any time in our country’s history, and certainly, in my lifetime. I have always believed that our future is in the hands of our children, and I believe parents have always sought to instill respect, truth and honor as guiding principles in raising their children, and that belief has me thinking of my own youth, the principles taught to me by my parents, and the words of President John F. Kennedy that inspired me as a young man.

I remember exactly where I was, like almost anyone of voting age, when President Kennedy was assassinated on Nov. 22, 1963. I was sitting in the student lounge at Westminster College, facing south, second row of tables from the counter, G. “Gordy” Brown across from me; “Fish” to my right” and “Elvis” to my left; we were playing “Bridge”; Beth, who ran the student lounge, was at the lunch counter, just north of the clock on the wall that chimed 11:30 a.m.; there were only a few students present. I ask those who were our youth in 1963 to remember our call from President Kennedy, and our youth of today, to listen to that call, of which the following is quoted from a post in “shapell.org.”:

“The seventeen most inspiring words in 20th century American history were spoken by John F. Kennedy, around mid-day, on January 20, 1961, in Washington, D.C. The occasion was his presidential inauguration, and came as he was concluding his inaugural address. He had just declared that the torch had been passed to a new generation of Americans — ‘born in this century, tempered by war, disciplined by a hard and bitter peace, proud of our ancient heritage’ – and pledged to ‘pay any price, bear any burden, meet any hardship, support any friend, oppose any foe, in order to assure the survival and the success of liberty.’ Soon after, he spoke the seventeen words:”

And so, my fellow Americans: Ask not what your country can do for you — ask what you can do for your country.

“Those words were positively electrifying. No president had ever challenged citizens, in peacetime, to sacrifice or commit to a larger vision. With that single sentence, Kennedy inspired people to new possibilities.”

I sincerely ask the youth of the 1960s to remember these early days of their lifetimes and the youth of today to take heed of this call of President Kennedy and seek out the truth and take the high road in the coming elections this fall.

Leonard W. Burningham, Salt Lake City

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