DOUG ROSS: From Camelot, we've plunged into darkness

2013-11-22T00:05:00Z DOUG ROSS: From Camelot, we've plunged into darknessBy Doug Ross doug.ross@nwi.com, (219) 548-4360 or (219) 933-3357 nwitimes.com

Where were you when you learned President John F. Kennedy was assassinated? That's assuming you were old enough to remember, of course.

I was with my mother, watching a grainy television in a gas station.

It was a pivotal moment on which the world suddenly turned.

I was young, just 4 years old, and this is one of my earliest memories. But it's still vivid.

Fifty years later, it's an appropriate time to look for perspective.

JFK is considered the best president of the modern (as in post-World War II) era. Is it because he was martyred? Or is it because of his actions in the Bay of Pigs and other tests of his leadership?

On Tuesday, we marked the 150th anniversary of President Abraham Lincoln's Gettysburg Address. Compared to other speeches of its time, Lincoln's 272-word speech was practically a tweet. But it offered a positive message that focused the nation on the reasons for fighting the rebels in the Civil War.

JFK, too, offered memorable oratory. Who can forget the stirring message, "Ask not what your country can do for you. Ask what you can do for your country."

It was a time to serve others, not a time to serve yourself.

And look what has happened to our society in the 50 years since Kennedy was suddenly taken away from us.

In 1968, the American political world turned bloody once more. Martin Luther King Jr., the famed civil rights leader, was shot to death in April. Two months later, JFK's brother, Robert, was killed.

Today, the Camelot years are long gone.

Wealth has become more concentrated, and fewer Americans believe the next generation will have a better standard of living than their own.

The haves often look at the have-nots with scorn, wondering why they reach out for public assistance. And the have-nots have become addicted to public aid, finding it difficult to pull themselves up by the bootstraps, a term popular in the 1960s.

We have become a nation so polarized over access to health care that our federal government was partially shut down for weeks. Political feuds, rather than collaboration and compromise, have become the order of the day. Faith in government has sunk to new lows.

When JFK was running for president, his book "Profiles in Courage" wasn't a fawning autobiography but the story of eight U.S. senators who exercised the courage of their convictions and not the party line. It's a book worth reading today.

I think President Barack Obama was elected because Americans want a charismatic leader who can unite the nation. That hasn't happened.

What will it take to pull the nation back together again?

Fifty years since JFK's assassination, and 150 years since the Civil War, it's an urgent question. Please share your thoughts.

Editorial Page Editor Doug Ross can be reached at (219) 548-4360 or (219) 933-3357 or Doug.Ross@nwi.com. Follow him at www.facebook.com/doug.ross1 and on Twitter @nwi_DougRoss. The opinions are the writer's.

Copyright 2014 nwitimes.com. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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