In 1961, President John F. Kennedy challenged a nation to, “ask not what your country can do for you — ask what you can do for your country.”
In 2011, 50 years later, Mayor John Lazar will issue a similar challenge to Turlock’s students – ask not what Turlock can do for youth, ask what youth can do for Turlock.
The challenge comes as part of as part of a program called “JFK 50th: Mayors Ask What Youth Can Do.” Lazar is one of about 100 mayors nationwide who will take part in the program, organized by the U.S. Conference of Mayors and the Harvard Institute of Politics.
“President Kennedy’s call to service in his 1961 Inaugural Address inspired a nation to serve,” Lazar said. “His words still ring true today.”
On Jan. 11, Lazar will visit approximately 500 Dutcher Middle School and Turlock Junior High School eighth graders to discuss his own path to public service. But even before Lazar arrives, each classroom teacher will receive a copy of Kennedy’s inaugural address and a curriculum discussing the address, courtesy of the Harvard Institute of Politics.
The nationwide campaign, with mayors from Albany, Detroit, New Orleans and Sacramento signed on to participate, will see visits to middle and high schools from Jan. 5-14. The effort will culminate in the Jan. 20 U.S. Conference of Mayors Winter Meeting, where Caroline Kennedy will address the gathered mayors and video of mayors speaking to young people will be shown.Locally, Lazar will use the program to encourage Turlock youth to become involved in their community and local government through active participation and volunteerism.
“I think today more than ever we need to get our young people interested in volunteering and serving their community in whatever capacity might be of interest to them,” Lazar said.
Those young people might be interested in Turlock Shines clean-up days, ringing the bell for the Salvation Army, or feeding the hungry with Turlock Together, Lazar said. Or they could volunteer to help out with city events, or even develop new parks and recreation programs.
“When I was young in Turlock we had a lot of youth-oriented parks and recreation programs, and unfortunately the funding for a lot of that has dried up and evaporated,” Lazar said.
With declining city budgets, government increasingly needs to rely on volunteers, Lazar said.But for many young people, answering the call to service can be as simple as being a good person, and serving as a role model for fellow youth.
“I’m hoping my call added to the call of President Kennedy 50 years ago will motivate junior high students to meet the challenge,” Lazar said.
To contact Alex Cantatore, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org or call 634-9141 ext. 2005.