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The New Frontier

Aug 24, 2009, 9:25 AM

The new frontier is the recurring theme in John F. Kennedy's Inaugural Address of Friday, January 20, 1961. President Kennedy was original. In the address he laid emphasis on the endless quest for peace and freedom around the world. In the opening paragraph, JFK argued that human rights are God-given and should therefore be held sacrosanct. He said: "The world is very different now. For man holds in his mortal hands the power to abolish all forms of human poverty and all forms of human life. And yet the same revolutionary beliefs for which our forbears fought are still at issue around the world - the belief that the rights of man come not from the generosity of the state, but from the hand of God."

This is not surprising because he drew his inspiration from the heritage of liberty as handed down by his Founding Fathers in the Declaration of Independence. "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men (and women) are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights; that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness."

It is for this reason that governments are set up to ensure that these rights are guaranteed and respected through good governance. Good governance is made up of three components. They are: process, content and deliveries. Transparency and accountability are part of the process, while values such as justice and equity make up the content component of good governance. Under deliveries, governments are to make sure that citizens, especially the poor, have their basic needs, and live a life with dignity. Concerning the rule of law, it is not enough to be governed by laws; the laws must be seen to be just, fair and reasonable.

This is the new frontier for journalism. And this is what JFK aptly termed as "a struggle against the common enemies of man (and woman): tyranny, poverty, disease and war itself". And we call it a fight for a rights-based society in which people live in peace, progress and prosperity; where they are free to hold well informed opinions and to react to misguided ones that affect them without reprisals. And this is the most basic of all human rights because when people are denied the right of free speech, they are trapped in servitude. 

In this fight, nobody (especially journalists) must sit on the fence: you are either on the side of tyranny or on the side of liberty. "We shall pay any price", JFK said, "bear any burden, meet any hardship, support any friend, [and] oppose any foe, in order to assure the survival and success of liberty." And for those who choose to stay on the side of tyranny, JFK said: "Those who foolishly sought power by riding the back of the tiger ended up inside."

"Give me liberty, or give me death!" 
Patrick Henry