How President Kennedy’s Most Famous Quote Was Actually By Gebran Khalil Gebran

Belinda McDowall/Colored by Dana Keller | William J. Smith /AP

The whole world recognizes the famous quote from President John F. Kennedy’s 1961 inaugural address:

“Ask not what your country can do for you – Ask what you can do for your country.”

Met with loud applause by the crowd, it is one of his most memorable lines and that has been reiterated by so many since then, referring the patriotic wisdom to him.

However, not everyone knows that JFK’s historic quote was actually inspired by renowned Lebanese writer, poet, philosopher, and artist Gebran Khalil Gebran.

In his 1925 essay “The New Frontier”, Gebran wrote:

“Are you a politician asking what your country can do for you or a zealous one asking what you can do for your country? If you are the first, then you are a parasite; if the second, then you are an oasis in a desert.”

The takeaway from this text would be exactly what the United State’s 35th President said in his inaugural address. Except JFK was saying it to his citizens, where Gebran targeted it towards politicians.

Maybe who thought it first and said it first doesn’t matter as much as the actual message and its influence in making a positive change in the way citizens view and/or treat their countries.

However, it is a good question to ask in Lebanon these days, like the iconic Gebran Khalil Gebran once asked:

“Are you a politician asking what your country can do for you or a zealous one asking what you can do for your country? If you are the first, then you are a parasite; if the second, then you are an oasis in a desert.”

Now more than ever, Lebanon is in need of “an oasis in the desert” and certainly not parasites living or thriving at the account of the struggling nation.

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How President Kennedy's Most Famous Quote Was Actually By Gebran Khalil Gebran

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