The video of presidential candidate Senator John F. Kennedy, from the Jack Paar show in 1960, is memorable for several reasons.
There is the exceptional communication skill of John Kennedy. There is the respectful tone of the host and the studio audience. The cynicism and irony so omnipresent today have yet to appear.
Tempered by the national near-death experiences of the Great Depression and the Second World War, Kennedy and his audience tended toward an earnestness about service. How best to serve is a serious, life-defining question.
Why Kennedy Entered Public Service
As Jack Paar points out, Kennedy was a scion of one of the wealthiest families in the United States. He could have done anything—or nothing.
Why did he choose politics?
It was quite obvious [in 1945] and has been and it’s going to be true even more that all the great decisions which are going to be made which will affect the lives of everyone in this room now will be made by the United States government and with their allies across the world and by the communist government….I don’t think it’s ever been as true as it is now….it’s been true in large measure really since the administration of Roosevelt, the government has played a greater role, but it’s particularly true since the end of World War II….
One might agree or disagree with Kennedy’s political project. Some might dismiss any rationale he offered as cloaking a desire for power for its own sake. Nonetheless, the arc of his service and high aspiration must incline fair-minded people to give weight to his explanation.
How Can You Best Serve–Now?
What about you?
How can you best serve now? The world today is very different from what Kennedy was describing in 1960. For that matter the world is notably changed from 1989, 1999, even 2005.
Are the premises of your earlier life and work decisions still in force? Even if they are, has your thinking evolved in new directions? Have your priorities adjusted, placing more or less emphasis on various ways you might make a difference? Have your capacities increased in some areas–perhaps declined in others?
For example, might you add more value serving a wider community? Or should you narrow your focus, to serve a smaller group, with greater intensity?
Should you reexamine how you serve within personal relationships—family, friends, business colleagues?
Have you allowed service priorities that began as temporary to extend indefinitely?
If you were to die today, what areas of service would you have left undone? Is it time to attend to those now?
The good news is that are more ways to serve and lead today than ever before in history. You can make a difference in ways that were unimaginable just a short time ago.
Everybody can lead—because—everybody can serve.
What about you?