(Assemblyman Pat Hickey) – The inaugural words of John F. Kennedy, “Ask not what your country can do for you; ask what you can do for your country,” inspired a generation of Americans like myself. Urging us not to be dependent upon, but to go beyond what government could do, JFK challenged each of us to rekindle the founding spirit of self-reliance that created a nation like no other in history.
That wintery day 50 years ago, America’s youngest president stood shivering in the frigid D.C. wind taking his oath of office while offering up that unforgettable phrase. Ahead of him awaited problems abroad with Cuba and Russia, along with epic civil rights challenges at home. Instead of promising Americans a government-subsidized rose garden, the former war hero delivered his most famous quote on personal responsibility.
Tomorrow, Nevada’s 29th governor will stand with his family on the chilly steps of the Nevada Capitol and take his oath. Like JFK, Brian Sandoval enters office facing enormous challenges. State budgetary problems caused from a near Depression have knocked the bloom off Nevada’s sagebrush boom.
Regardless of the lofty rhetoric that our newest chief executive delivers tomorrow and on the evening of his first State of the State address, Nevadans would be wise to take Kennedy’s advice and expect more from ourselves than we do from state government. Besides, as another statesman, Winston Churchill, once said, “An optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty.”
In fact, Nevada’s recession has brought out the best in many of us. In times like these, families have taken in their elderly parents and allowed their adult children to come home until they can save enough and get back on their feet when the economy improves.
In difficult times like these, volunteer heroes like Evelyn Mount have turned their home into a virtual food store for the hungry. The Norm Dianda’s of the world have kept up their charitable giving to the community even as their profits have dwindled.
Teachers and dedicated public servants have doubled their efforts and made personal sacrifices at a time when their budgets were sliced. Some would call this cruel. Others, like President Kennedy, might see it as being noble and doing what is necessary when times are tough.
And as if in homage to JFK, Nevada college students have helped UNR make its debut on the annual Peace Corps Top Colleges list for 2010.
The year 2011 will be another challenging time for most Nevadans. A new governor and state lawmakers will not solve all the State’s problems in one legislative session. Most of the state’s families are struggling to make their own budgets work. Elected officials can help by behaving more like the parents they represent than the partisans they frequently become.
Most Nevadans are proud of our “Battle Born” heritage. We can be equally proud if we strive to give ourselves the kind of rebirth of the spirit that President Kennedy spoke of 50 years ago.
(Assemblyman Hickey is a Republican representing District 25 in Washoe County)