President John F. Kennedy famously challenged Americans in his inaugural address: “Ask not what your country can do for you; ask what you can do for your country.”
This challenge behooves us all. It resounds as much as it did when it was first spoken.
The National Day of Service will take place on Saturday, Jan. 19, leading up to the second inauguration of President Barack H. Obama. The pageantry and historic significance of a presidential inauguration is one of the truly inspiring rituals of our democratic republic, no matter your voter registration/party affiliation. Since the constitutionally mandated inauguration date of Jan. 20 falls on a Sunday this year, Obama will take the official oath of office that day in a private ceremony.
The public ceremony will be held Monday, Jan. 21, and it coincides with the national holiday honoring the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.
The two historic occasions have intersected only seven other times in U.S. history, making this coming Jan. 21 a truly historic day
During the 1950s and 1960s, civil rights leader Rev. King recognized the power of service to strengthen communities and achieve common goals. Initiated by Congress in 1994, the King Day of Service builds on that that legacy by transforming the federal holiday honoring Dr. King into a national day of community service grounded in his teachings of nonviolence and social justice. The aim is to make the holiday a day “on” rather than “off”.
Organizers call on people of all ages and backgrounds to come together to improve lives, bridge social barriers, and move the U.S. closer to that “Beloved Community” that Dr. King Jr. so aptly envisioned. Now, we embrace the National Day of Service.
With thousands of projects planned across the U.S., the National Day of Service calls for Americans to again be active participants in this initiative. It is a reminder to help out in some way as we can.
The fact that Inauguration Day this year falls on Martin Luther King, Jr. Day provides many people with the vehicle to reflect on where we have been as a nation and where we are going as a nation.
On the Mall in Washington, D.C., the service organizations will be grouped around seven themes: Health, environment, veterans and military families, faith, education, economic development and “community resilience,” which might entail helping communities struck by national disasters or tragedies. This last theme is very close to us here — through Hurricane Sandy or the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting in Newtown.
With these historic events in January, we should remember these words:
“We pray that we will never be so blind
That our small world is all we ever see
Or so supremely satisfied, that what
We are is all we ever want to be.
Grant us the joy of feeling someone’s need,
make us gracious to those who lead…”
I take those words to heart and take a small break from my small world and hope that I am not so blind to see that there is more. I do hope that I am not so satisfied with myself to the point that I could not find a way to be a better person. I do hope that I take time to appreciate those that lead, for without them, imagine all the ships lost at sea.
Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. once said, “Life’s most persistent and urgent question is: ‘What are you doing for others?”
Perhaps you can do something to serve your neighbors and nearby communities. See it as a chance to start 2013 off right by making that difference, making an impact in your community and surrounding area and ease into making volunteerism an integral part of your life. Doing so will help you grow, making yourself a better person and enriching the Spirit of Service.
There are many search engines which promote volunteerism and civic engagement by matching volunteers with charitable organizations and non-profits, educational and community organizations.
Lisa V. Tasi, a resident of Easton, is a former president of the Junior League of Eastern Fairfield County and currently serves as secretary of the Easton Republican Town Committee and is an officer with the School Volunteer Association of Bridgeport and a board member with the Greater Bridgeport Symphony.