Monday, November 12, 2012

Michael Josephson: Ask what can you do for your country

  In 1961, President John F. Kennedy, invoked my generation to “Ask not what your country can do for you — ask what you can do for your country.”

  We are fortunate to live in a free and democratic society where millions of civilians and soldiers serve their fellow citizens. Today is Veteran’s Day and the weekend provided the nation a special opportunity to honor and express gratitude to the millions of living military veterans and thousands of active duty men and women who have or are serving our country.

  In 1995, an Air Force pilot named Scott O’Grady was shot down during a flight mission over Bosnia. He was rescued by helicopter after surviving six days being hunted by hostile ground troops. Though given a hero’s welcome he insisted he was no hero and that he wanted no honors.

  In explaining his position rejecting special recognition he said [It] “is your depth of commitment, your quality of service, the product of your devotion — these are the things that count in a life. When you give purely, the honor comes in the giving, and that is honor enough.”

  Other great men have told us of the true rewards of service. Albert Schweitzer said, “I don’t know what your destiny will be, but one thing I do know: the only ones among you who will be really happy are those who have sought and found how to serve.” Walter Reuther, a leader of the labor movement echoed the sentiment this way: “There is no greater calling than to serve your fellow men. There is no greater satisfaction than to have done it well.”

  This excerpt from a poem called “You Don’t Know Me,” by Linda Ellis, provides a perspective and a tribute that transcends politics. (She also wrote the classic poem “The Dash.”)

Although you don’t know me, every day, I think of you.
I worry about your safety and I pray for you, too.

Although you don’t know me, please know that I care.
Though strangers, we are family in the beliefs that we share.

Although you don’t know me, I know the work that you’re doing 
and the pride in our country that you are renewing

Although you don’t know me, you have my utmost respect
for it’s the future of my children you are there to protect.

Although you don’t know me and we’ve never met,
the gift that you’re giving is one I’ll never forget.

Although you don’t know me, my heart beats with hesitation,
when I hear you’re being deployed to an “undisclosed location.”

Although you don’t know me, I know the fears you must hide
for a soldier in uniform is bravery, exemplified.

Although you don’t know me, please know by this poem
that I’ll pray for you faithfully until your safe return home.

Although you don’t know me, you’ve made me one proud civilian,
but you need to know today that I’m only one in a million!

  About the author: Michael Josephson is one of the nation’s most sought-after and quoted ethicists. Founder and president of Josephson Institute and its CHARACTER COUNTS! project, he has conducted programs for more than 100,000 leaders in government, business, education, sports, law enforcement, journalism, law, and the military. Mr. Josephson is also an award-winning radio commentator.

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