In his inaugural address in 1961, John F. Kennedy referenced a quote from the Roman philosopher and politician, Cicero: “Ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country.” Less than two years after that speech, Kennedy was assassinated on November 22, 1963.
“Both Cicero and Kennedy were victims of political assassinations, and both men left a legacy of public service and duty in the name of individual and political freedom,” says Wake Forest University classics professor Michael Sloan.
“JFK drew regularly on the writings and lives of heroes of history to influence the public conscience,” says Sloan. “Great orators are well educated, well read and well practiced and leave a legacy that demonstrates how, once articulated, great truths in moments of individual and national crises can unite human beings.”
As the country watches again the scenes from that fateful day in Dallas, Texas, 50 years ago, Kennedy’s memory is a testimony to the lessons of history, that, as Cicero said, 'we ought to sow in our younger years that which bears fruit for the span of our whole life.'
“It is not the death, but the life of JFK that continues to move the nation and remind us of our responsibility to act for the general good of our community and our state,” says Sloan.
Sloan, an expert on leadership and classical studies, is available for interviews.