Skip to comments.Revealed: How JFK stole his 'ask not what your country can do' speech from his old headmaster
Posted on 11/01/2011 8:25:13 AM PDT by afraidfortherepublic
It was quickly recorded as one of the greatest sound-bites in political history. As delivered by President John F Kennedy during his January 1961 inauguration address, the immortal phrase 'Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country' inspired millions of Americans.
But a new book claims the words of wisdom were not down to Kennedy, or one of his speechwriters, but were instead cribbed from the headmaster of a school the president once attended.
Jack Kennedy: Elusive Hero, by U.S. talk show host and author Chris Matthews, claims that Kennedy first heard the language in chapel at Choate School in Connecticut, where he studied during the 1930s. Matthews dug up two documents that back up his hypothesis.
One was headmaster George St John's typed chapel speech notes in which he quoted a Harvard College dean: 'As has often been said, the youth who loves his Alma Mater will always ask, not "What can she do for me?" but "What can I do for her?"'
A questionnaire completed by Kennedy's school-time contemporaries when he was president further confirms Matthews' claim.
(Excerpt) Read more at dailymail.co.uk ...
It just goes to prove that Chris Matthews is an equal opportunity back stabber.
I’m amazed that Prissy had the time to write a book when his face is planted on Odumbo’s buttcheeks at the same time getting a tingle on both legs.
Kennedy by todays standards would be to the far right of the McCains, Romneys and Grahams of the RINO party...
he had many horrible flaws...but would be head and shoulders over the pretender we have in the WH today...and might be far right of ‘the Bushes’ too....
Well, maybe he “outsourced” the writing...it’s been done before.
I think this is the biggest piece of nonsense I have ever heard masquerading as “shocking” news. So what if Kennedy repeated something he heard 30 years before? Has no one ever modified something they have heard? Has anyone, in the history of the written language, ever come up with a truly original and unique phrase?
I think it was Mark Twain who famously (but unlikely originally) said “Good writers borrow, great writers steal”
“Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country” is a classic line given in one of the great inaugural addresses.
You mean the “Ayers” method? Makes sense, Dems lie and backstab..
If Kennedy wanted to “borrow” something from an old headmaster I really don’t have a problem with that.
If I recall correctly, Ayn Rand was the first to point out that both alternatives are wrong. We shouldn’t be asking “the country” what it can do for us and we shouldn’t be asking “the country” what we can do for it.
To me, it sounds like the headmaster instilled a good value into the young Kennedy that he took with him and applied in his own life. And, the headmaster acknowledged that it had been “said many times”, noting that it was not his original thought but a value of the organization.
Does Matthews claim to be breaking something new? If so, that's funny.
none of the kennedys were known for their brains.
I have to disagree with the second part of your statement.
Asking what one can do for one's country, and backing it up with the action of commiting to doing it is the definition of an all-volunteer military force, like the one that serves us with honor.
This fact has been out there for decades.
Roosevelt stole “New Deal” from Twain.
This is an old, old story and is not worth the virtual it’s written on. This simply shows that Chris Matthews is either just too stupid to, or just fails to, do proper research. (I’m thinking it’s likely both.)
EVen dumber than this, the quote is paraphrased from something said 1000’s of years ago, IIRC.
Ha-ha. Good one - THAT's funny.
headline should be...Chris Matthews writes book - steals from a 2005 Edward Wyatt NYT article
I’ve known of it for a long time.
That unscrupulous sob died at the right moment to preserve his then not-quite-unsullied reputation.
When Caroline Kennedy recently released the tapes of Jackie speaking about what a fraud Martin Luther King was; I also wondered what was up. The left's two greatest icons are President Kennedy and Martin Luther King. They have carefully crafted Obama’s image to contain elements of both.
Obama’s past is a mystery. His two autobiographical books and his official narrative have all been shown to be almost complete fabrications. Despite their best efforts more and more is going to keep leaking out about Obama's past indiscretions and fictitious life story over the next year and much of it is likely to be damaging to Obama’s reelection efforts.
This country became the greatest country in history by the cumulative, aggregate result of tens of millions of people, generation after generation, each pursuing his individual self-interest, and in the process, necessarily helping others to achieve their self-interests. And what made this possible was individual freedom.
I and everyone else who ever attended Choate have been aware of this fact since we were 14.
Good Artists Borrow, Great Artists Steal. - Pablo Picasso
Originality is undetected plagiarism. - J. S. Bach
“95% of all quotations on the Internet are bogus.” - Abraham Lincoln
Fifty years' old story, known at the time.
You mean "I am a jelly donut"?
Fifteen is his limit on schnitzengruben.
Maybe everybody else knew about this at the time, but I didn’t. Of course, I was young then with no money for TV, radio, or regular newspaper subscription beyond Life, or Time. But, JFK was my first vote, and I had even attended a rally for him at the Cow Palace in SF. I was keeping up with the news.
I suspect those who knew about this charge were members of the old boy network of elite schools in the east, or privy to whispered allegations from Republican campaign groups. I do not think that ordinary Americans knew about this, and I’ve read a lot about JFK in the interim. I already was soured on him at the time of his assassination, but that did not stop me from crying my eyes out. I might not have cried so hard had I nown all the truly negative stuff that has come out about him afterwards.
MLK was a Republican.
See #25. Supports my point in #30. A small, tightly knit group knew this — not the general public.
None of the above in my case. I remember the incident from hokey reminiscent TV tearjerkers the networks ran following Kennedys assassination. Some classmates and other friends instantly recognized the expressions derivation as coming from a well known Harvard professor, who was so fond if his saying that he used it often.
Unsurprisingly not many people remember the expressions story today. Its been near fifty years!
If I recall correctly, the expression was recognized and reported upon even on the day of Kennedys inauguration.
Well, as I said, I was very young and very poor on the day of his Inauguration so I must have missed this news. It wasn’t mentioned in Time magazine (where I read the speech) at the time. I didn’t even have a phone. On the day of his assassination and later burial I did have a TV, (and a phone) but I also had a new baby and 2 other young children. I thought I watched every minute of the multiple national grief productions afterwards, but I heard no mention of it then either. I’ve read numerous books about JFK’s successes and failures in the 50 years since, and I had never heard this allegation mentioned. Those who revere Kennedy NEVER mention anything about his failures. Plaigiarizing an old prof, without giving credit, ranks among his failures, IMHO.
Most of the negatives against the Kennedy family have centered on Teddy and Old Joe. I can’t tell you how many books I’ve read on JFK and family, and this never came up. Certainly I remember numerous references to Joe paying Ted Sorenson(?) to write “Profiles in Courage” (supposedly his Harvard Sr. Thesis) for him and then buying up enough copies to push it to the Best Sellers List. But, I’ve never heard this Inaugural quotation (one of the most memorable lines ever spoken) debunked before. I must travel in the wrong circles.
Incidentally, my husband was in NYC for a symposium with the Atomic Energy Commission the day Kennedy was shot. He was in a cab heading to the UN when he noticed people stopping in the street in tears. He asked the cab driver what had happened and was told. Since the UN was closed for the day, he went to his aunt’s home in Brooklyn and she entertained him for the rest of the day. She went out shopping and sent home 2 toy drums for my 2 oldest children — then 2 and 3. By the time he got home (to California) with those drums, the kids had already memorized the dirge that had been playing on TV all weekend as the Caisson carrying JFK’s body rolled through the streets of Washington. The kids picked those drums up and played that dirge over and over until I thought I’d scream. LOL
I don’t remember what ever happened to Aunt Mary’s drums, but somehow, I don’t think that they met a very good end. I don’t remember the younger 2 kids ever having drums. Since all toys and clothes were “passed down” in the family, it seems strange that drums came up missing. ;’)
I was 13-year old just entering teenage-hood when Kennedy ran in 1960 and his look and wit won me over but by the time the 1964 election rolled around, I had matured enough to honestly see both the forest and the trees. I was then Press Chairman for the Harris County Youth for Goldwater & Des Berry. I continue my conservative politics to this day.
BTW watch the 2011 mini-series "The Kennedy's" DVD or streaming on Netflix as Greg Kinnear and Katie Holmes hit home runs as Jack and Jackie.
I was a bit older, but still starry eyed (21). By the time of the assassination, I remember remarking to my husband that I didn’t think he’d be re-elected.
BTW, I’ve read Hersh’s book. It really depressed me. REALLY! I read it the same weekend that I read one of the tomes on Clinton. Those 2 books left me in a deep sorrow. There is another one out there; I think it’s called the Fitgeralds — or the Fitzgeralds and the Kennedys. My Gawd. I hated Old Joe after that one. Just his name gives me chills. They were all a pretty trampy crew — not at all as the press portrayed them in the 1960s.
Did you forget the sarcasm tag? Was King a womanizing, plagiarizing, communist, who accused Barry Goldwater of “Hitlerism, who claimed that America “had committed more war crimes than any nation in the world” kind of Republican?
Through the years, reporters routinely asked Mr. Sorensen if he wrote the line in Kennedy's 1961 inaugural address that arguably is the most famous sentence the president ever spoke: "Ask not what your country can do for you; ask what you can do for your country."
"Having no satisfactory answer, I long ago started answering the oft-repeated question as to its authorship with the smiling retort: 'Ask not,' " Mr. Sorensen wrote in "Counselor: A Life at the Edge of History," his 2008 memoir.
Kennedy used this sort of rhetoric a lot. Either he really loved chiasmus, or Sorenson did and Kennedy just read what Sorenson wrote. More here.
It's Ted all the way.
Agree. Here is another slice of that masterful speech:
Let every nation know, whether it wishes us well or ill, that we shall pay any price, bear any burden, meet any hardship, support any friend, oppose any foe to assure the survival and the success of liberty. JFK, Inaugural address, 1961
Can you imagine a Democrat saying something like that today. Even the RINOs wouldn't be caught saying it!
That’s true (cannot imagine any Dem saying that today), but Kennedy was a chameleon. He presented one side of himself to the public, and quite a different one in private. So, who knows what he really thought?
Faithful Catholic in public/sorry sinner in private. Athletic, vigorous man in public/wracked with pain, drug addict in private. I could go on, but one should not speak ill of the dead.