John F. Kennedy

President John F. Kennedy takes time to laugh in the oval office.

In 1961, in his inaugural address, President John F. Kennedy said the world is very different now.

“We dare not forget today that we are the heirs of that first revolution,” he said. “Let the word go forth from this time and place, to friend and foe alike, that the torch has been passed to a new generation of Americans — born in this century, tempered by war, disciplined by a hard and bitter peace, proud of our ancient heritage — and unwilling to witness or permit the slow undoing of those human rights to which this nation has always been committed, and to which we are committed today at home and around the world.

“Let every nation know, whether it wishes us well or ill, that we shall pay any price, bear any burden, meet any hardship, support any friend, oppose any foe to assure the survival and the success of liberty.”

While America has always been divided, today’s problems seem to have escalated — not us against them, but us against us.

President Donald Trump said in his acceptance speech in 2017, it is time for America to bind the wounds of division.

“We have to get together to all republicans and democrats and independents across the nation,” he said. “I say it is time for us to come together as one united people. I pledge to every citizen of our land that I will be president for all Americans and this is so important to me. For those who have chosen not to support me in the past, of which there were a few people, I am reaching out to you for your guidance and your help so that we can work together and unify our great country.”

And the inauguration of Joe Biden as the 46th president takes place today.

In his first speech as president-elect, Biden pledged to be a president that seeks not to divide, but unify. Who does not see red states and blue states but only the United States.

“I sought this office to restore America, to rebuild the backbone of this nation — the middle class and to make America respected around the world again and to unite us here at home.”

With its approximately 328 million people, as president it is impossible to achieve the representation of us all. And do we have a role?

During my high school graduation, one speech I will remember was from Woody Hayes, the late great Ohio State football coach, who found time to visit Heath, Ohio, stand on a podium and deliver some impactful remarks to the 95 graduating students and their parents that spring day so long ago. He talked about paying forward. Take that attitude toward life, he said, quoting Ralph Waldo Emerson.

“He said you can pay back only seldom,” Hayes said. “But you can always pay forward, and you must pay line for line, deed for deed, and cent for cent. He said beware of too much good accumulating in your palm or it will fast corrupt. That was Emerson’s attitude and no one put it better than he did.”

No matter the president, what are we doing to our fellow Americans? Are we trying to understand one another? What can we bring to the table?

“In football, we always say, ‘That other team can’t beat us. We have to make sure that we don’t beat ourselves.’ And that is what a person has to do, too — make sure that they don’t beat themselves,” Hayes said.

Let’s play ball; and that is all.

News Editor Carolyn Harmon can be reached at charmon@rrdailyherald.com or 252-410-7058.

News Editor Carolyn Harmon can be reached at charmon@rrdailyherald.com or 252-410-7058.