Don’t lose hope: Make a better ’17

In his inaugural address on Jan. 20, 1961, President John F. Kennedy exhorted Americans to: “Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country.”

Now, nearly 56 years later, as another new year has dawned, that message still holds true, although there is much that mere resolutions won’t accomplish.

In the opinions of many, 2016 warrants a poor grade, and there are many explanations for why it didn’t live up to the expectations and promise that greeted it 366 days ago.

Terrorism, drugs, racial incidents, murders and other violence and criminal activity; the Zika virus, revelations of child sexual abuse by clergy, unproductive partisanship in government preventing completion of even the most basic duties and responsibilities; the criminal wrongdoing by government officials, questionable decision-making and obstruction within the business sector as well as in all levels of government; also, friction in almost every sector of life.

Indeed, the question in many people’s minds is, in fact: “What’s to be happy about?”

It’s true that the situation deserves no sugar-coating.

But we as individuals, and we as a nation must not lose our hope, our determination to move forward, our tenacity, and our desire for understanding and correcting the problems that afflict us.

Restoring unity among diverse peoples and a major assault against vicious distrust of those around us would be good first steps.

Certainly, the challenges will be difficult. Certainly, no guarantees exists about the successes possible.

But we have to try — for this community, for this state, and, as Kennedy said, “for your country.”

There is still much unrest within the United States emanating from the long, divisive, hateful, embarrassing presidential campaign. However, it will do no good to widen the division rather than find ways to narrow it.

Rather than the trivial resolutions many people profess at this time of the year, everyone should resolve to watch closely the goings-on around them this year like never before.

As part of doing that, they must commit themselves to making their voices heard — not only at the ballot box but as part of their interactions with others, their units of government and even their religious institutions.

Actions of no one are above being questioned; in the end, such scrutiny can accomplish much.

Too many people put a naive spin on New Year’s, as though we’re living in utopia.

In fact, we’re living in a very dangerous, fragile time capable of spawning horrors much greater than what Sept. 11, 2001 brought. The best judgment and decision-making must prevail to avert such calamitous developments and the human toll they might exact.

Welcome 2017.

Understand that it holds promise for many good things.

Understand that each one of us, although but a speck in the big picture, is important nonetheless in charting the future’s course.

Hopefully, all of us will not only ask what we can do but resolve to do more than we are asked to do.

Central Pennsylvania, the Keystone State and America are great but can be greater — no question. Let’s resolve today to be greater than we ever thought we could be.