Wednesday, March 31, 2010

And In the Re-Write, I Say...

Twenty years ago, I wrote a paper.  I re-read the literature involved, and then posted the paper on my other blog, the review blog:

Parts of it are a little impressive. 

Other parts suck. 

I spent a year writing the paper after reading and thinking about my topic for two.

Here's a quote from Walker Percy's The Second Coming that made me consider my topic in the first place.  The speaker is Father Weatherbee, an old-school Roman Catholic priest asked to perform a marriage for the two very special main characters:
How can we be the best dearest most generous people on earth, and at the same time so unhappy? How harsh everyone is here! How restless! How impatient! How worried! How sarcastic! How unhappy! How hateful! How pleasure-loving! How lascivious! Above all, how selfish! Why is it that we have more than any other people, are more generous with what we have, and yet are so selfish and unhappy? Why do we think of nothing but our own pleasure? I cannot believe my eyes at what I see on television. It makes me blush with shame. Did you know that pleasure-seeking leads to cruelty? That is why more and more people beat their children. Children interfere with pleasure. Do you hate children? Why can't we be grateful for our great blessings and thank God?" As he gazed down at the desk, he seemed to have forgotten Will Barrett. His voice sank to a whisper. "Why is it that Americans who are the best dearest most generous people on earth are so unhappy? (410)
We ARE unhappy. Even those of us who profess to be happy, who do all the things that happiness requires, who have all the wealth, spiritual and/or physical, and who are also being GOOD, are not happy.
I know this.
I know it because I listen to women.
I have a friend who is so hard on herself that she sabotages every relationship she starts with a man.  She's AMAZING with women; in fact, she is my best friend.  Put a man on the scene and she turns into the-woman-we-all-hate AND the woman-she-herself-hates.  I can't understand it.  AND, I will not let her be THAT woman anymore.  Time to shift paradigms. 
I have a friend who takes such good care of those in her life that those she cares for do not have to care for themselves.  AND while she's taking care, she's devastating her own situation.  She, also is a best friend.  I love her.  I want to make her situation better.  Time to encourage HER to shift paradigms!
I have yet another friend who is constantly searching for approval from men.  Not only approval maybe; she wants their submission.  Yet she doesn't use her best attribute, her intelligence, to achieve her goal.  She uses her sexuality. Another best friend.  Wow. Time to hope she starts to value her intelligence and finds a way to change her own world.   
I have yet another best friend who hates men.  At least she professes to hate them.  She still has tons of male friends.  I pray for her, though I'm not sure what to pray for.  It's time for her to figure out who she is and what she wants and then let grace change her world.
I'll just say this.  Real love, real commitment, real life is about giving yourself.  Does it matter which woman you are? 
I think not. 

In fact, isn't each of those women really... me?  You?
I think our last, best option is to accept what life hands us, do what we know how to do to improve our lot, and then accept who, what, and where we are.

If we don't, how can we be the best dearest most generous people on earth?

Monday, March 22, 2010

The Great Adventure

Tonight is the 18th class of my 24-week bible study, Jeff Cavin's The Great Adventure.  I have learned to much and made some new friends.

What I love best about the Adventure is what I've been able to share with my teens in my ninth grade faith formation class that meets Wednesday nights.

Last week we had a great discussion.  They shared with me things they've learned this year.  I kept a chart. 

We have a few "sections" of salvation history left to discuss - things like, "Why were there no great kings uniting Israel after Solomon?" and "Who lived in the Northern Kingdom?"  "Southern Kingdom?"  and "Who were the prophets?"

Right now, my teens know an awful lot about their history.  They really love the stories... stories about Cain and Abel, Abraham taking Isaac to sacrifice, Noah and his sons, Rahab the prostitute, Jezebel and the dogs.  David fascinates them (he sent his best friend to war over a woman?).  Solomon disgusts them (who wants 1,000 wives/concubines?).  They'd love to see Solomon's Temple - and then his palace.

They know characters and stories and facts.

In the very few hours I have left with them, we need to inspire them to enter INTO their story.  The only way they can fully enter into their story is through Jesus Christ.

I'm a seed planter, praying for God to send me the seeds.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

The Hand That Rocked My Cradle, Part Two

It's ironic to me that every time I feel the urge to reach out to my mother or feel like there could be a new and different type of relationship with her, she does something completely heinous and hurtful to remind me how very lucky I am that she is no longer part of my life or my children's lives.

Last night I was with the "Pink House Club" playing bingo at the Legion in town. 

The "Pink House Club" is very exclusive.  There are eight permanent members and sixteen total members.  Joe and I and his parents and another couple and his parents.  We all stayed at the Pink House last November in Florida when Joe and his buddy were playing in the Roy Hobbs World Series.  We had a better time than anyone imagined we would, so we opt to reconnect now and then.  Last night was one such reconnection.

Shortly after bingo ended, my mother and her 39-year-old "friend" arrived.  Yep, he's one year younger than me and one year older than Staci.  And he hurts our mother.  In fact, the officer that arrested them Monday night for her second DWI and his obstructing charge told me that if I can do anything to help my mother, the best thing I could do was get him out of her life.  I wish I could.  She calls him her Jesus on earth, and I'm not sure how to defeat Jesus.

Suffice it to say that my mother played her usual Kari game last night.  This time, she played it in public.  The details don't matter to anyone except me. 

What matters is that I didn't have to wake up this morning wondering - was she REALLY that awful?

She really was that awful and others saw it.

Here's the basic scene:  I'd gone over to greet her.  (That was a bad, bad decision.)  I wanted to know that she was okay after her arrest and jail stay.  I was also a little shell shocked: who goes to a bar for alcohol the night after they get out of jail for alcohol-related charges?  She was nasty, Friend was nasty, and I opted to walk away from both of them. 

My mother was at HER best.  And, like I said, others saw it.  Saw her.  Saw what she does and who she is.

Not only were those people witnesses, they were active participants.  My friends got up and stood between my mother and I when she wanted to force me to keep listening to her.  Mom couldn't get close enough to do her usual pushing and spitting (and I am SURE she was enraged!).  If you've never lived with an addict, you can't imagine what I'm talking about when I say "her usual pushing and spitting."  If you have, you get it.

There are so many words begging to be written about what happened last night.  I shared most of those words with Joe last night when I got home and cried out my "daughter-hurt" - and let him ease the pain.  All I have left to say is this:  for the first time in my entire life there was a barrier between my mother and I. 

I have never, ever felt so... safe.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

The Hand That Rocked My Cradle

My mother has been on my mind. 

I was thinking about her Sunday when we heard the reading about the prodigal son returning home and the grand celebration at his return (Luke 15:1-3, 11-32).  Isn't that the welcome we all get when we find our way back to the Lord? 

I wonder if she knows that is the welcome awaiting her when she finally comes "home."

There is a prayer in my heart:  may she finds peace and contentment and safety and escape the demons - real and imagined - that haunt her.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Stupid Quote of the Day

I read this today:

on something you
can't go a day without
thinking about.

What a stupid quote.  Not only does it end in a preposition (choke - honestly, I know it's conventionally allowed, but the Latinist in me chokes every time), but what kind of philosophy is that?

That means that every addict should wait in hope for the day he or she can safely exercise their addiction again?

The quote annoyed me so much I googled it.  Apparently the original is just a little different than the version I first saw:

on someone you
can't go a day without
thinking about.

This is better?

I'm guessing my mom thinks every day about the man who regularly hurts her.  I'm guessing there are predators thinking about children every day.  I'm guessing there are women thinking about men who are married and men thinking about women who are married, and I'm guessing they're doing it multiple times a day.

I have a theory that too many people subscribe to these kinds of feel-good-about-me philosophies.  I believe what's most wrong with the world we inhabit is that people put their own needs before the needs of others, and societal mores help them do it.

Just do it.

If it feels good do it.

If you think about it every day, have it... wait for it... take it.

Don't get me wrong.  Looked at from a different perspective, it's an affirming message. 

Persevere.  Definitely.

Think and hope and dream.  Absolutely.

Take steps to achieve what you most desire.  Please do!

A home-schooling mother spoke to Rotary today and commended members because, as she said, "I look at you and see leaders, but know in my heart the best of you submit yourselves first to service."

Yes.  Submit yourselves to service.  Then quotes like these are no longer dangerous to either the subscribers or to whatever they subscribe to.

And, yes.  I dangle those prepositions too.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

And With a SQUEAL of Delight...

I squealed this morning when I discovered a trove of personal treasure!

Since we've now lived in our house fifteen years, and since I'm on the threshold of Serious Personal Change, I've been cleaning and reorganizing the house.

This is not a cursory cleaning/reorganizing project.  Indeed not.  I decided I'm ready to clean out my file cabinets too.

I have a file for every paper I wrote in high school that I thought merited keeping.  I'll probably get to those later. 

I kept the file habit into the college years - only in some sort of sadistic enhanced mode.  Not only did I keep the good stuff - I kept the crap.

Thank God!

I found some creative writing stuff.  It really is stuff - crappy stuff.  I should be embarrassed about the quality of this creative writing.  I can't be though.  Reading this creative stuff is like a journal of my early adulthood. 

From Being Eighteen

Music thumps a heavy beat that shakes the foundations
Clothes fly around the room and burst into the hallway

Karen calls asking what to wear
We talk and laugh and decide together

Ready at last, I wait at the door, tapping my toes
Finally screaming at mother who wanders barefoot

We exchange hateful words and uncomfortable warmth
Spreads through my body and leaves my heart heavy

I call Karen for a ride to this last-year-of-school event
Mom must feel the scorch of my hatred as I wait, sullen

wherecanshebe...itsafterseven... WHEREISSHE??
As the white junker finally pulls in the yard
Mom rushes out of the back room

She hands me an envelope and ten dollars
Like every other night, her expression is "havefuniloveyou" sorry

Clutching my ten and the car, running out the door
Wondering how I can be six again... beloved and safe?

Catching a glimpse of her watching at the window
And turning away from her and riding away.

Mom and I have had issues for a long time.  This wasn't even close to the only time I wrote about her.

The class must have occurred in spring because I wrote about Lent too.

In Church on Passion Sunday, Alone

I ache
deep in the pit of my stomach.

It's like the fall
from the peak of a rollercoaster
or the sickening lurch
when the fire bell rings.

I ache
for something.

My body leans toward it
I stand on my toes til they bend
and stretch out my hands
until my fingers get numb.

Yet it is beyond my grasp.

I ache
for the sight I am denied.

I hear the love that said:

"Ache and yearn for Me
no other can blind your eyes
no other can reach your grasp
no other can fill your ears

I ache
to believe.

"Only I spread my arms
and died
for you."

The ache never fades.

If I recall correctly, I was taking another class simultaneously and we were reading Native American literature at the same time.

Proof?  I wrote a poem about that too.  I was always a big believer in the Humanities-style of study.

The Sacred Circle

They build us churches out of brick
And tell us to learn the Golden Rule
We are confused by the Rule
Loving our neighbors has always been our way

They teach us about God and Jesus the Christ
We try to love this vengeful God and
Understand the blessed Heaven and fiery Hell
But with our eyes we see the beauty of Mother Earth

They provide us with wooden houses and sticks of furniture
But they take away our homes and the warmth of our families
They stand us in a line and break our hold on one another
Life is barren and empty when the circle is broken

They say our children must go to school like theirs
We like this opportunity for our cultures to mix
But they take our children away from the earth
Learning is meaningless without reverence

They offer us dignity we already possess
Those who refuse to honor us suffer penalty of law
Yet it is not what we asked them to give us
All we ask is to maintain sovereignty

They give to us that which we have
And take from us that which we need
We could show them the peace and beauty -
The sacred circle that is our life.
For some reason though, it's the poem about secrets that's my favorite.  I think because it's maybe the one poem that reveals how very different I am now than I was at 20.  It's about secrets. 


I tuck all my underwear
into the back of my drawer;
no one will ever see them there.

I make sure that on washing day
they are well out of sight
even though they are pretty.

Beautiful even...
Silk panties trimmed with lace
Bras in soft pastel hues.

They are safe in their drawer -
most don't even notice
they are hidden in the drawer

I guess they don't look
and they don't ever ask
about my underwear or me.

So I think it's a safe bet
not to mention that I keep
my underwear in that top drawer.
I must have been a secret-keeper at the time - even though I'm not really sure what secrets I was keeping.  The juicy secrets didn't happen until later.  And now?  I've come to the sure knowledge that sin is born in secret.  I have no time or inclination to neatly fold and tuck away any secret.  Thank God.

The best is yet to come.

Tucked away in my English 201 and English 301 folders, I discovered some stream-of-consciousness journal entries.  These are awesome - WAY, way better than any poetry ever.  Mostly because I hate poetry.  Honestly, just tuck in some punctuation and make full sentences and (for God's sake) say what you want to say.

I wish I would have dated these journal entries, but I'd guess they were written in 1990 at the same time as the poetry.  I picked a couple excerpts and the last full entry to share here.
Tonight we bought my wedding dress at the same place my mother bought hers twenty-one years ago... When she bought hers, she said "I have eighty dollars, do you have a dress that I can buy?"  The lady said, "You love this one, don't you?  I've seen that look before.  It's ninety-six and you really love it so take it."  Mom did.  They must have stopped giving brides who really love their dresses breaks.  Mine was full price.  It's made out of what must be thousands of yards of satin.  It has a unique scalloped hem that looks feminine and delicate.  The train is super long and all down it are sparklies.  When you look in the mirror everything shines like diamonds.  The material is white like the snow before dogs pee in it and cars driver over it.  Joe's mom said Joe would be entranced no matter what dress I chose - good answer from a soon-to-be Mother-in-law!  Joe's best man is the guy who introduced us five years ago.  I'm scared about that.  He can be a poop-a-loop.
I don't recall every calling someone a poop-a-loop using my out-loud voice, but who knows...

A few days later, I wrote:
This morning I did the dumbest thing ever.  I sat down on the toilet, only to jump up screaming.  My sister'd left her hot curling iron on the closed toilet seat.  I guess I would have been in trouble even without the curling iron sitting there.  Hard to pee with the seat closed.  When I stood up, the curling iron caught in the crease between my butt and thigh.  Holy crap.  I could smell the flesh burning.  Half an hour later there were two huge blisters right in the spot that gets a wee workout every time you stand and sit and walk.  Mom had some goo from when Scott burned his feet, but it smelled like a combination of doggie doo and air freshener.  Do you ever wonder why manufacturers don't get that not everything can be made to smell good?  And trying just makes it worse?  I had to wipe that stuff off.  You know.  I've complained about cold toilet seats before, but they sure beat hot ones.  I have to type now with my elbows on the floor and my butt in the air.  It's awfully pathetic, if you ask me.
And the final entry:
Cory tried to eat the diamond out of my engagement ring today.  It's a good thing I get it checked regularly.  What if he'd got it out and swallowed it.  His mommy would have to check his poo for diamonds and the wedding pictures would sure look dumb with a ringless bride.  He goes, "Whassat?" and I said "It's a sparkly.  Pretty.  Be nice."  So then Cory kissed the ring.  It was really sweet.  Except for the baby slobber that got all over my hand and my supper.  Crap.  This is going to be a short entry because everyone and their sister is now disturbing the peace.
I wonder when I stopped noticing things?  Stopped thinking about things we pretend don't matter when they really do?  Stopped taking the time to sit with a baby on my lap looking at a diamond?  Stopped being smart?

I like the young me.

I no longer plan to just toss the contents of my file cabinet.  Instead, I'm going to take a detour down good ol' memory lane, sharing some of the things I find worth preserving here in my blog.  Not sure if that holds value for anyone except me, but at the end of the year I'll print my blog in a blog-to-book format so my future grandchildren can one day read about my apparent fascination with poo and butts.

They may find they like the young me too.

Friday, March 12, 2010


I love math even though it sometimes breaks my head.

Know why I love it? I love it because there's only one right answer no matter how many different ways you look at the numbers.

Math is one of the few things I believe to be incontrovertible.

In a world in which everyone has an argument for everything, I find that refreshing.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

On Being Nice

I recently received this advice:  "Be nice to me, Kari, and I'll be nice to you."  That statement is wrong on so many, many levels.  Had I no restraint or sense of propiety, it might have made me scream and throw things.

I readily, freely, and loudly admit I am not nice.  I don't strive to be nice and I don't always respect people who are nice.

I browsed "being nice" this morning.  Look what the internet says about it:
  • going through the motions when your heart's not in it
  • pleasant, anemic, lacking depth or character
  • superficial and static quality
  • avoids telling hard truths
  • proximal quality - affects only those with direct contact
  • based on transitory actions
  • adjust expectations to fit the situation and/or people
There's little I find attractive or worthy in that list.  Is there some benefit to "going through the motions when your heart's not in it?"  I can't think of a single scenario in which I would ask someone to go through the motions for me.  Why would someone want me to do so for them?  Isn't a genuine desire to be helpful or support so much better than going through the motions?

And then there's kindness, a quality I find worthy of my full attention.  Kindness, says my friend the Internet, is:
  • internal genunine desire to be merciful
  • compassionate
  • about humanity
  • empathetic
  • a daily practice
  • proximal, affecting those with immediate contact, but also expansive, affecting people we may not even know
  • a relatively rare quality
  • about sharing what is not pleasant or easy but is helpful
  • patient
And you know?  Jesus was kind, but not always nice.  The truth Christ brought was harsh - live in Me or die.  There's nothing transitory about that truth, and it's certainly not sugar-coated to ease the digestion.   
There is something authentic and organic and true about being kind.  So, yeah, call me kind. 
Nice?  Pfft.

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Service... And Then Self

I read an excellent post this morning at the High Calling blog:  "The One Person Who Served Jesus" by Ed Cyzewski.  And incidentally, if you want some daily bread, subscribe to the High Calling.

Cyzewski writes about events in Mark 14.  The short version...

Jesus finds Himself at the end of His journey to the cross.  Those around Him were jostling for position, trying to secure their own places in the coming Kingdom.  And in the midst of what may have been some of Christ's saddest moments, a woman approaches. 

The unnamed woman comes not with a request for healing or to listen to Him share wisdom; she comes with a gift for Jesus.  She breaks her valuable alabaster jar of perfume and pours it over His head. 

The people around Jesus indicate their shock and dismay at her waste of the expensive commodity.

The woman knows what's truly valuable and she's given Jesus the best of all gifts; she's annointed Him for His coming death.  Says Cyzewski, "Jesus could go to the cross knowing that at least one person grasped the kind of service and love he was modeling."

The woman has put serving Jesus before her own needs or desires, and for that Jesus proclaims she will be remembered throughout history.

In this post-Christian world, do enough of us understand the value of service?

Every year, the Monticello Rotarians hold a Fish Fry during Lent.  The Pinewood gymnasium was the center of some seriously hyper activity.  There were dozens of people eating fish and potatoes, playing paddle raffle, and bidding on auctioned items.  The money raised during the fish fry funds excellent community projects. 

The Rotarians know how to serve; in fact, the reason I joined the organization was because I recognized something kindred in the Rotary motto, Service Before Self, and the Rotary Four-Way Test:
Of the things we think, say or do

        1.Is it the TRUTH?
        2.Is it FAIR to all concerned?
        3.Will it build GOODWILL and BETTER FRIENDSHIPS?
        4.Will it be BENEFICIAL to all concerned?
What better way to make any decision, whether at home with family, in the office with fellow employees, or during any personal endeavor than to ask these questions?

Whenever I decide to take part in a service mission - and I take part in many - I do it because the answer to each of those four questions is a resounding "yes!"

It occurred to me last night that my service missions often become my family's service missions.

Jakob and I shopped together for the gifts we donated to the Rotary paddle raffle - fun for me, certainly.  For him?  Not so much.

Jakob helped me "wrap" the gifts and then he and Joe delivered them so I could go serve in other capacities.

Joe stayed with me until the end of the Fish Fry, and then beyond, to help with the massive clean-up project.

Of course, my greastest service missions relate to SALT's activities.  My family is called upon to serve whenever SALT has an event. 

Jakob is Program Guy and Cookie Tester Guy at concerts, making sure everyone gets a copy of the program and that the cookies are fresh and tastey. 

Adam serves often as Power Point Guy and group "roadie", loading and unloading all the equipment we need to make music happen. 

Joe wears so many hats, and never balks at the fit.  He's been a lighting technition, game manager, cake server, Power Point Guy, dancer (oh yes, it was lovely!), Money Guy, and food server. 

They all help with clean-up too.  They're such good help that I've never had to load a box back into a vehicle when they're there.  When I consider all they've done, I sort of understand why they don't always stand up and cheer when I mention that I have a new idea.

I've occassionally needed help at my Faith Formation classes too, since I always seem to get the classes with all the teenage boys.  Both Adam and Joe have managed crowd control in my various classes.

Service has always been part of my nature, and I think it's part of Joe's too.  Considering children learn what they live, I think my boys will grow and serve in their own ways.

I'm glad.

Friday, March 5, 2010

What Faith Can Do

Kutlass has a new song written by Scott Davis and Scott Krippayne
Everybody falls sometimes; you gotta find the strength to rise
From the ashes and make a new beginning...

Anyone can feel the ache - you think it's more than you can take
But you're stronger, stronger than you know...
And don’t you give up now, the sun will soon be shining -

You gotta face the clouds to find the silver lining.

I’ve seen dreams that move the mountains
Hope that doesn’t ever end even when the sky is falling
I’ve seen miracles just happen, silent prayers get answered
Broken hearts become brand new, that’s what faith can do
That’s what faith can do
I love this song and hope SALT will use it in the coming year. 

Everybody does fall sometimes and the only thing to do is find the strength to rise from the ashes and start again.  Of course, sometimes that's easier than other times. 

I'm graced with faith that can move mountains.  It can mend a broken heart too, leaving it stronger than ever before.

Thursday, March 4, 2010


I have no idea if I like the colors we chose for the kitchen and living

It matters.

The paint is going on the walls near my piano.

I won't be able to play if the walls annoy me.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Great Beginnings

Sometimes when I sit down to write, I stare at the blank screen or blank piece of paper and my mind is empty.  Other times the only words that come to me belong to someone else.

When, in the course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume, among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the laws of nature and of nature's God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.  We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness...
And don't we all love the immortal opening of the Constitution of the United States of America?

We the peopleof the United States, in order to form a more perfect Union, establish justice, insure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general welfare, and secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.
I never get great opening lines like those. What about the noble Gettysburg Address
Four score and seven years ago our fathers brough forth on this continent a new nation, conceived in liberty and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.
Not everyone remembers the rest of the Address.  Lincoln went on to say:
But, in a larger sense, we cannot dedicate - we cannot consecrate - we cannot hallow - this ground.  The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here have consecrated it far about our poor power to add or detract.  The world will little note nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here.  It is for us, the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced...  that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain; that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom; and that government of the people, by the people, for the people shall not perish from the earth.
And JFK's inaugraul address?  Brilliant!  I memorized it in Mr Houselog's sixth grade:
We observe today not a victory of party but a celebration of freedom - symbolizing an end as well as a beginning - signifying renewal as well as change.  For I have sworn before you and Almighty God the same solemn oath our forebears prescribed nearly a century and three quarters ago. 
It's not even enough to just remember Kennedy's opening lines.  The entire speech - the opening of his presidency and a new era for the United States - is worthy of recall.
The world is very different now.  For man holds in his mortal hands the power to abolish all forms of human poverty and all forms of human life.  And yet the same revolutionary beliefs for which our forebears fought as still at issue around the glove - the belief that the rights of man come not from the generosity of the state but from the hand of God.

We dare not forget today that we are the heirs of that first revolution.  Let the word go forth from this time and place, to friend and foe alike, that the torch has 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 unwilling to witness or permit the slow undowing of those human rights to which this nation has always been committed, and to which we are committed today at home and around the world.

Let every nation know, whether it wishes us well or ill, that we shall pay any price, bear any burden, meet any hardship, support any friend, oppose any foe to assure the survival the success of liberty.

This much we pledge - and more.

To those old allies whose cultural and spiritual origins we share, we pledge the loyalty of faithful  friends.  United, there is little we cannot do in a host of cooperative ventures.  Divided, there is little we can do - for we dare not meet a powerful challenge at odds and split asunder.

To those new states whom we welcome to the ranks of the free, we pledge our word that one form of colonial control shall not have passed away merely to be replaced by a far more iron tyranny.  We shall not always expect to find them supporting our view.  But we shall always hope to find them storngly supporting their own freedom - and to remember that, in the past, those who foolishly sought power by riding the back of the tiger ended up inside.

To those people in the huts and villages of half the globe struggling to break the bonds of mass misery, we pledge our best efforts to help them help themselves, for whatever period is required - not because the Communists may be doing it, not because we seek their votes, but because it is right.  If a free society cannot help the many who are poor, it cannot save the few who are rich.

To our sister republics south of our border, we offer a special pledge - to convert our good words into good deeds - in a new alliance for progress - to assist free men and free governments in casting off the chains of poverty.  But this peaceful revolution of hope cannot become the prey of hostile powers.  Let all our neighbors know that we shall join with them to oppose aggression or subversion anywhere in the Americas.  And let every othe rpower know that this hemisphere intends to remain the master of its own house.

To that world assembly of sovereign states, the United Nations, our last best hope in an age where the instruments of war have far outpaced the instruments of peace, we renew our pledge of support - to prevent it from becoming merely a forum for invective - to strengthen its shield of the new and the weak - and to enlarge the area in which its writ may run.

Finally, to those nations who would make themselves our adversary, we offer not a pledge but a request - that both sides begin anew the quest for peace before the dark powers of destsruction unleased by science engulf all humanity in planned or accidental self-destruction.  We dare not tempt them with weakness.  For only when our arms are sufficient beyond doubt can we be certain beyond doubt that they will never be employed.

But neither can two great and powerful groups of nations take comfort from our present course - both sides overburdened by the cost of modern weapons, both rightly alarmed by the steady spread of the deadlly atom, yet both racing to alter that uncertain balance of terror that stays the hand of mankind's final war.

So let us begin anew - remembering on both sides that civility is not a sign of weakness, and sincerity is always subject to proof.  Let us never negotiate out of fear.  But let us never fear to negotiate.

Let both sides explore what problems unite us instead of belaboring those problems which divide us.

Let both sides, for the first time, formulate serious and precise proposals for the inspection and control of arms - and bring the absolute power to destroy other natiions under the absolute control of all nations.

Let both sides seek to invoke the wonders of science instead of its terrors.  Together let us explore the stars, conquer the deserts, eradicate disease, tap the ocean depths, and encourage the arts and commerce.

Let both sides unite to heed in all corners of the earth the comman of Isaiah - to "undo the heavy burdens... [and] let the oppressed go free."

And if a beachhead of cooperation may push back the jungle of suspicion, let both sides join in creating a new endeavor, not a new balance of power but a new world of law, where the strong are just and the weak secure and the peace preserved.

All this will not be finished in the first 100 days.  Nor will it be finished in the first 1,000 days, nor in the life of this administration, nor even perhaps in our lifetime on this planet.  But let us begin.

In your hands, my fellow citizens, more than mine, will rest the final success of failure of our course. Since this country was founded, each generation of Americans has been summoned to give testimony to its national loyalty.  The graves of young Americans who answered the call to service surround the globe.

Now the trumpet summons us again - not as a call to bear arms, though arms we need - not as a call to battle, though embatteled we are - but a call to bear the burden of a long twilight struggle, year in and year out, "rejoicing in hope, patient in tribulation" - a struggle against the common enemies of man: tyranny, poverty, disease, and war itself.

Can we forge against these enemies a grand and global alliance, North and South, East and West, that can assure a more fruitful life for all mankind?  Will you join in that historic effort?

In the long history of the world, only a few generations have been granted the role of defending freedom in its hour of maximum danger.  I do not shrink from this responsibility - I welcome it.  I do not believe that any of us would exchange places with any other people or any other generation.  The eneerrgy, 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 here the same high standards of stregth and sacrifice which we ask of you.  With a good conscience our only sure reward, with history the final judge of our deeds, let us go forth to lead the land we love, asking His blessing and His help, but knowing that here on earth God's work must truly be our own.

Oh my goodness, Kennedy got it right. No wonder I'm an optimist if this is what I was memorizing when I was twelve.

Imagine what the commentators would make of any of these great American documents today. The constant exclusion of women by the speakers' persistent use of male pronouns and non-inclusive language could fill an entire weekend's roster of political talk shows.

Those who believe we are guaranteed freedom from religion (rather than freedom of religion) could fill a week of news programming with objections to these very public prayers calling for support and assistance from the Almighty. JFK actually suggests we are the hands and feet of God. I think the ACLU may have sued.

Oh, and those anti-weapon and anti-war groups could occupy the nightly news programs for a good long time dissecting the references to wars past and present and the potential for more war in the future, and the notion that "arms we need."


At least my page is no longer blank.