Modeling Greatness: Evaluating the Pathways to the Presidency

  • Theresa Marchant-Shapiro
Part of the The Evolving American Presidency Series book series (EAP)


In his inaugural address, President Kennedy asked Americans to dedicate themselves to a life of service to their country and to the world. In the vision that he presented, he identified sacrifice as the cure for society’s ills: “The energy, the faith, the devotion which we bring to this endeavor will light our country and all who serve it—and the glow from that fire can truly light the world. And so, my fellow Americans: ask not what your country can do for you—ask what you can do for your country.”1 For some, Kennedy’s words served as a call to arms in the military; for others, in the Peace Corps; for others, in the government. Years later, Kennedy’s daughter, Caroline, spoke of the feedback she had received from those who had responded to her father’s call. “When my brother John and I were growing up, hardly a day went by when someone didn’t come up to us and say, ‘Your father changed my life. I went into public service because he asked me.’”2 It is noteworthy that instead of identifying themselves as “public officials,” the excited group of young people who descended on Washington in 1961 identified themselves as “public servants.” The two terms correspond with two different perspectives on who should be involved in governmental decision-making. The term “public official” corresponds with the republican perspective presented by Presidents Jefferson and Adams; “public servant,” with the democratic perspective presented by President Jackson.


Vice President Political Skill Peace Corps Leadership Ability Organizational Expertise 
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© Theresa Marchant-Shapiro 2015

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  • Theresa Marchant-Shapiro

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