LESSONS FROM THE KENNEDY ASSASSINATION:
What this tragedy teaches us about the hurdles of doing good
By Timothy S. Jacobson
~The Nonprofit Provocateur~
“And so, my fellow Americans: ask not what your country can do for you — ask what you can do for your country.”
— John F. Kennedy's Inaugural Address, January 20, 1961
While I watched the morning news about the 50th anniversary of the assassination of John F. Kennedy, one of the newscasters remarked to a guest historian about the continuing conspiracy theories and the issue of whether Lee Harvey Oswald acted alone. The historian expressed his opinion that Oswald did act alone. Other parts of the news broadcast focused on how the whole nation was transformed in various ways by this tragedy.
The assassination of a charismatic, youthful President at a time of national optimism and promise for the future was, and remains, very profound and sad beyond what tears can demonstrate.
One crazed man, one gun and a few bullets. And so much pain and loss as a result.
We witnessed the same type of scarring of the national psyche, the same type of despair and disbelief, with the horrible events of 9/11 when a few, crazed men took control of jetliners and wreaked havoc on our national existence and frame of mind. Our peace was shattered, and we were left feeling vulnerable and violated.
These events do highlight a major and continuing challenge for this world and a horrible, but readily observable truth: It is much easier to tear down that which is good than it is to build up things that are positive.
Despite these terrible, tragic events, we must push forward and not let ourselves be defeated. Tragedies are an inevitable part of life. All we can do is to control our response to such situations—to keep doing good.
As I think about the negatives of national tragedies like Kennedy’s assassination, I also think about the countless numbers of people who have heeded JFK’s challenge to the nation: to ask not what our country can do for us — but to ask what we can do for our country.
Nonprofit organizations serve a hugely important role in the business of doing good, of serving others, of serving the nation.
We place enormous expectations on nonprofit organizations to carry out some of the most critical functions of society. To them, we often entrust the huge burdens of protecting our natural environment, raising funds for research to cure terrible diseases, feeding the hungry, treating the sick, housing the homeless, caring for the abused, and shepherding our spiritual growth.
I have so often witnessed the tremendous and powerful positive energy of nonprofit organizations, their leaders and their volunteers. The value and comfort and joy these groups bring to our lives, many times in ways unseen or under-appreciated, is huge beyond words.
As you remember and reflect upon the sadness and the void created by those few among us who seek to tear us down, please also take time to consider and appreciate the millions of soldiers of goodness and healing in the world—those who stand ready to care for a world in need. To them we owe so very much.
Tim Jacobson is president of Visjonær Consulting & Communications, LLC., an organization dedicated to helping nonprofits reach their potential. He's been a board member and executive of a number of nonprofit and for-profit organizations over the past two decades. He's the author of Explosive Marketing for Nonprofits: Trajectory for Success to be released in 2014, the Amazon best-selling thriller The Kurchatov Penetration, and he served as executive producer of a documentary film, Mysteries of the Driftless, which was broadcast on PBS. He's been featured numerous times in magazines, newspapers and on TV for his organizational consulting, nonprofit and business leadership, his film and writing projects, and his exploration of international peace issues.
This article is copyright (c) 2013, Timothy S. Jacobson. All rights reserved.