Crusty Corner "ask what your country can do for you." John F Kennedy

YAKIMA, Wash., December 22, 2012 –  “There is a debt of service due from every man to his country, proportioned to the bounties which nature and fortune have measured unto him,” wrote Thomas Jefferson those many long years ago.  Those words resound as true today as they were back in the first days of the founding of our great country.

Today, just as in the days of Jefferson, countless men give, and have given, many times more than that what nature and fortune have bestowed upon them.  To those who march through the sands of the Middle-East not knowing which step may be their last step, I salute you.  To those first responders who so valiantly and bravely respond to the 911 calls at places like Aurora and Sandy Creek, you have my deepest gratitude and support.  And, to those who cater to the poor, the weak, and the infirm, you are cherished.  We, individually and collectively as a nation, can never repay the debt.  Our spoken words hardly have the ability to demonstrate how much we owe to your service.

To those who say, “What has our government done for me?  I pay all these taxes and the government gives me nothing,” I say, “Shame on you.”  To those in my family, my neighborhood, my state, and my country, I say to you, “Wake-Up–look around and be thankful.” 

We have a government that protects us from those in the world who would do us harm, by providing the greatest military force ever assembled.  From our military have come some of the greatest leaders of our country and for the world–Leaders, starting with Washington, who not only were successful military men but also were great statesmen, men who made lasting contributions. 

It was General Eisenhower who led the conquest of the Nazi menace that devoured most of Europe, and General McArthur that conquered the Pacific.  It was General Marshall who demonstrated the economic strength of our free country to the world and the Soviet regime with airlifts to Berlin.  And, it was General Colin Powell acting as Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, who implemented the military force that stopped aggression in the oil rich countries of the Middle-East upon which we depend.

Eisenhower was the President who promoted the interstate highway system which connects virtually every section of our beautiful country.  His pivotal work made travel truly possible from sea to shining sea in relative safety and in a reasonable timeframe.  You can visit our pristine national parks, visit any historical site, go to any of our great cities and basically participate in any travel activity you desire, all made possible by your government.

Many forget some of your tax dollars are used to educate our children. A free education is a government guarantee to all children: yours, mine, and theirs.  In places like Somalia, Rwanda, Afghanistan and parts of the Middle-East, schools are almost none existent.  We have all witnessed the anarchy caused by Islamic fundamentalism, tribalism, and feudalism.  But in America, in our country, while many people call for less government, it’s your tax dollars that protects public safety, provides schools, and ensures that all of our children can gain entry to those schools.  It’s from this amalgamated education system that our leaders of tomorrow will arise.  This is what your tax dollars provide.

While I agree that there are places where less government seems better, there are also places where government must become involved to prevent distortions of competition or the gaining of advantage by either labor or industry.  In other words, ensure a level play field for all.  One only has to study the antecedents of the 2008 Great Recession to understand why government involvement remains important. 

Our democracy is messy at best, but it is resilient. It has the capacity to rejuvenate itself, to self-correct, and find the right way forward.  We have bounced back from disheartening events like Sandy Hook, assassinations, disgraced politicians, natural catastrophes like Hurricanes Sandy and Irene, and depressions and recessions and in the end always come out stronger and wiser.  The ability to do this is what your government gives to you, my friends.

As John Kennedy once said, “Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country.”

During this holiday season, mindful of the recent terrible tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary, I will thank my Creator for having lived in a well-governed country of the people, by the people and for the people.

(Larry Momo writes for both The Washington Times Community Political Section and the San Pedro News Pilot.)

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