JFK "ask not" inspiration

Document may shed light on origins of JFK speech


An archivist at the Connecticut boarding school attended by John F. Kennedy says a document discovered there suggests he took inspiration from a former headmaster for one of his most famous lines.

Archivist Judy Donald at Choate Rosemary Hall says a journal in which the former headmaster kept fodder for sermons included a quote from a Harvard dean who wrote: "The youth who loves his Alma Mater will always ask, not 'What can she do for me?' but 'What can I do for her?"

She says other alumni heard an echo of George St. John's sermons in Kennedy's 1961 inauguration speech. But she says there was not any evidence until she found the document three years ago.

Comment: Full text of the speech here

Famous lines:

And so, my fellow Americans, ask not what your country can do for you; ask what you can do for your country.

My fellow citizens of the world, ask not what America will do for you, but what together we can do for the freedom of man.

Comment: I've used the phrase in sermons: "ask not what your church can do for you; ask what you can do for your church"

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