"Ask not what your country can do for you but what you can do for your country."
--United States president John F. Kennedy,
inaugural address, 1961
"Ask not what your countries can do for you but what you can do for the
global common good."
--Our collective question, 2021
In a world where individual beliefs frequently eclipse action on behalf of the collective good, students from high schools globally will interact to conduct a yearlong investigation into how civic obligation + responsibility are viewed in their home countries and globally. Inspired in part by US President John F. Kennedy’s 1961 inaugural address, in which he implored his listeners: “Ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country.” This initiative invites students to widen that lens, to ask not simply what their individual countries can do for them, but what they can do not only for their home countries but to advance the common good globally.
Over the course of a school year, students will move through three phases in this initiative. Initially they will consider how individualism has been and continues to be in conflict with collectivism. Then they will investigate how these translate into civic obligations and responsibilities and how those figure nationally and globally in five key areas that are connected to the United Nations' Sustainable Development Goals—(a) public health and well being, (b) the environment and climate change, (c) universal human rights, (d) justice, laws, and public services, and (e) peacemaking and preserving peace. Finally, they will collaborate to develop plans that promote strategies to make change that benefits the common good.
This initiative originated in July 2020 at the Boston Latin School, the oldest public high school in the United States founded in 1635 in Boston, Massachusetts, USA.