Two presidents during the last 50 years captured the hearts and imagination of the American people like no others: John Kennedy and Ronald Reagan. Their rhetoric and their vision stirred people to believe and to act; they helped define the eras in which they lived.
In 2008, then candidate Barack Obama identified both as presidents worthy of his emulation in terms of changing the “trajectory” and the atmosphere of the country. After five years, he has failed to capture the magic of our 35th and 40th Presidents and the reason is becoming perfectly clear. Though he is a gifted orator, the vision he has offered does not comport with reality, nor resonate with the true American spirit.
Some of the most memorable phrases of Kennedy’s and Reagan’s presidencies capture the essence of the vision each cast.
Of course Kennedy’s most famous words were his summoning call from his Inaugural Address, “Ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country.” The vision Kennedy offered was primarily focused on a belief in the American people as the source of change and hope and strength, and not the government. The Kennedy Administration became known as the “New Frontier,” a phrase taken from his speech accepting the Democratic nomination in 1960. “The New Frontier of which I speak is not a set of promises, it is a set of challenges. It sums up not what I intend to offer the American people, but what I intend to ask of them. It appeals to their pride, not to their pocketbook…My call is to the young in heart, regardless of age – to all who respond to the Scriptural call: “Be strong and of good courage; be not afraid, neither be thou dismayed.”