Johnson County Judge Roger Harmon, President–County Judges and Commissioners Association of Texas
Throughout his year as president of our State Association, Judge Harmon has continually encouraged members of Commissioners Court to set an example as leaders while simultaneously focusing on service, to both county and community.
Oftentimes, those wishing to inspire service focus on a special group or dedicated time of year. For example, in November we have Veterans Day, which offers an opportunity to pay special attention to our soldiers and their families. The seasons surrounding Thanksgiving and Christmas lead many to focus outward and seek those in need of food, warm clothing or shelter. As the year begins to wind down, perhaps your Commissioners Court or county will find a special group to serve or dedicate a particular week or day to service, as Dallas County is seeking to do.
In February of this year, Dallas County Judge Clay Lewis Jenkins posed an idea to the cities within Dallas County to help honor the life and legacy of President John F. Kennedy upon the 50th anniversary of his death, an idea which culminated in “Ask Not: The Dallas County Day of Service,” set for Nov. 21.
“When Judge Jenkins brought the idea to us at our staff meeting, we thought it was brilliant and such a fitting tribute,” said Shay Cathey, senior policy adviser to the County Judge and coordinator of Ask Not: The Dallas County Day of Service. “There was absolute sincerity in his wanting to recognize the life of President Kennedy, but he understood that in doing so, we would need to consider the emotions that could be evoked by any type of remembrance, especially in Dallas County.
“This countywide service event honors his life and just felt natural and appropriate,” Cathey continued. “I think that is why so many cities and organizations within the county wanted to participate. It will be a privilege to honor President Kennedy in this way with those who were in Dallas in 1963 as well as with a new generation who may be introduced to his legacy of service for the first time in their lives.”
Jenkins rolled out his plan in February by calling upon every city and political subdivision within Dallas County to organize, implement, and perform service projects in their respective areas on Thursday, Nov. 21, 2013, “that honor the life and legacy of President Kennedy and highlight the strength and diversity of Dallas County: a 21st century mosaic.”
The 50th anniversary of Kennedy’s assassination is the following day, Nov. 22, Cathey noted. However, the planning committee opted to set the day of service one day earlier, allowing participants to commemorate the president’s death in their own personal way on Nov. 22.
“I am asking that each city effort be captained by its mayor and each project be selected to meet the specific needs of each community,” Jenkins said during his public introduction of this special day. “Furthermore, I hope each Commissioner will participate in service projects that they may create and captain or join with a city within their district. The mayors and leaders standing here today have accepted this call and agreed to captain service projects in their cities.
“Each participating entity will select their project, and I’m sure each will choose good projects that speak to the needs and character of their city. Their local ownership and control will paint a picture worth a thousand words regarding the strength, diversity and beauty of our thriving county.”
The office of the County Judge, the county public information officer, and the county’s IT department will help to facilitate and publicize the projects.
Jenkins concluded his introduction of the day of service with the following:
“During his inauguration speech on Jan. 20, 1961, President John F. Kennedy challenged Americans to a higher level of concern and action for their neighbors in one of his most famous statements, ‘Ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country.’
“That sentiment of duty through service became the hallmark of his brief tenure as president. On Nov. 22, 1963, during a visit to Dallas County, his life tragically ended. This year will mark 50 years since his untimely death and provides an opportunity to corporately honor the life and legacy of President Kennedy through multiple service opportunities in Dallas County. When considering how best to honor President Kennedy and incorporate a spirit of service that best described the late president’s life, a day of service across Dallas County seemed most appropriate.
“The President’s own words at the conclusion of that inaugural speech serve as a reminder of our charge and poignant testimony to the life and legacy of President John F. Kennedy.
“‘Finally, whether you are citizens of America or citizens of the world, ask of us the same high standards of strength and sacrifice which we ask of you. With a good conscience our only sure reward, with history the final judge of our deeds, let us go forth to lead the land we love, asking His blessing and His help, but knowing that here on earth God’s work must truly be our own.’
“I hope you will join your city in this opportunity to honor President Kennedy, strengthen our communities, and highlight the spirit of service in North Texas.”