Wednesday, March 29, 2017
With the helpful guidance of Richard Reinsch's Brownson anthology, I have lately begun trying to understand the constitutional thought of Orestes Brownson. I am interested in the nature of our Union, and Brownson promises to be very helpful in arriving at clearer thinking on that topic.
Through something of a roundabout way, I recently found myself reading Brownson's 1843 oration at Dartmouth College, "The Scholar's Mission." This mission, he says, is nothing less than "INSTRUCTING AND INSPIRING MANKIND FOR THE ACCOMPLISHMENT OF THEIR DESTINY."
It seems to remain a matter of some dispute what the precise source of JFK's "ask not" exhortation may have been. Some hear echoes of an Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr. speech, and others of Warren G. Harding. Yet another possibility identified by others is this Brownson oration. It includes the exhortation: "Ask not what your age wants, but what it needs; not what it will reward, but what, without which, it cannot be saved; and that go and do, do it well; do it thoroughly; and find your reward in the consciousness of having done your duty, and above all in the reflection that you have been accounted worthy to suffer somewhat for mankind."