As I reflect upon my life and the purpose that drives it, I feel that service to others has been an underlying theme, though it certainly wasn’t clearly articulated. I never did make the statement, I just want to help others, my community, or my country, though this was certainly a character trait that was encouraged by the important adults in my life. As I reflect on this character trait of service to others, I am immediately reminded of the John F. Kennedy quote:
“Ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country.”
Quite often when we interpret this quote we are quick to relate the concept of service to country as Military service, political service, or diplomatic service to our country. I would like to suggest that the greatest service to our country is not enlistment in a military service or commitment to political or diplomatic leadership, but more directly the daily character leadership that we have immediate control over and our country seems to need today more than anytime in my fifty plus years; a commitment to combat hate, promote civil discourse, support other efforts, and strive for healthy communities.
We can achieve this concept of character leadership in some very simple ways, starting with conversations with our parents, siblings, and children around the dinner table. Here are a couple topics that you can speak to your children about that may inspire them to be that leader you hope for:
- Advocacy for others – What would you do if you saw someone doing something mean to another? Would you say something? What would you say? Who could you talk to about it?
- Tolerance for others views – Being tolerant of others views doesn’t mean you have to agree. Entering into a heated debate that becomes personal and hateful only serves to cause greater animosity and further division in the community. How would you agree to disagree with someone else when your belief system isn’t similar?
- Recognizing perspectives – Many times in the changing generations the perceptions of words, symbols, actions, etc. change. There are words today that our children use that may not hold the same meaning to us. Have a discussion with your child about some of these words; but both you and the child must be willing to listen to each other with an open mind and work together to come to an understanding or solution.
By practicing these strategies at home, and here at school, we can positively influence the civil interactions within our community, and set an example for our leaders and the rest of the nation.
In commemoration of our national leaders throughout the great history of our nation, I wish you all a blessed, peaceful and civil weekend of rest and service to self, community and nation.
Frederick T. Fout, SMA-LTC