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Posts Tagged ‘JFK’

Last week we celebrated the 43rd anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landing. Being a person that loves history and space, I’ve always felt drawn to this particular era in space exploration. There is something about it that is majestic and noble. I’m not quite sure what it is, but I do know this. I love how we were never deterred, even when things were beyond difficult. I love how we weren’t afraid to reach for really big things. I love how we turned grandiose ideas into actual realities. I love that we weren’t just impartial observers of the heavens from the ground, but that we actually became part of this new frontier.

I wanted to share with you, especially in light of recent comments by political leaders, my thoughts on the first moon landing, and what it means to me.

In May of 1961, President John F. Kennedy delivered an address to Congress that forever changed the nation – and the world.

Smack in the middle of the Cold War, President Kennedy challenged America, and America answered the call.

First, I believe that this nation should commit itself to achieving the goal, before this decade is out, of landing a man on the moon and returning him safely to the earth. No single space project in this period will be more impressive to mankind, or more important for the long-range exploration of space; and none will be so difficult or expensive to accomplish.

What a challenge! Some thought he was crazy. Developing a manned space program to travel to, and return from, the moon in less than 9 years? This wasn’t a science fiction movie. How could that even be accomplished? 9 years! He knew it would be difficult, but he wanted this done in 9 years!

NASA easily could have backed out and said that it just wasn’t enough time. The public would understand that. But, they didn’t. And the American public proudly stood behind NASA and the space program. The astronauts were heroes- idolized by the public. People looked at President Kennedy and NASA as great patriots. Everyone was excited by the possibility of actually landing a man on the moon – and not just any man, but an American.

It obviously wouldn’t be easy. 9 years is not much time when you are talking about traveling almost 239,000 miles away, and coming back home. 9 years. It would require tremendous effort, but we weren’t afraid of the challenge. In fact, we welcomed it.

19 months after his address to Congress, President Kennedy again addressed the nation, this time from Rice University. The whole speech is really amazing, but one part in particular stood out to me.

We choose to go to the moon. We choose to go to the moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard, because that goal will serve to organize and measure the best of our energies and skills, because that challenge is one that we are willing to accept, one we are unwilling to postpone, and one which we intend to win, and the others, too.

We do it because it is hard. Did you catch that? Because it is hard. Wow. This is profound to me. We aren’t taking the easy road here. We want to be the leader in space exploration. We want the American flag to wave on the moon. Of course this won’t be easy, but we are Americans and we do things because they are hard and challenging. We are up to the challenge and we will lead the entire free world in our quest for knowledge of the worlds beyond our own.

We are America.

Talk about American exceptionalism. Holy cow!

Sadly, President Kennedy didn’t live to see it, but his challenge was answered.

On July 20, 1969, Apollo 11 reached the moon, and Neil Armstrong and Edwin “Buzz” Aldrin were the first people to land on the moon. It was an absolutely amazing!

What an amazing feat! What a grand accomplishment! Never before, in the entire history of mankind, had man set foot on the moon. And there we were. Our flag flew on the moon.

America rejoiced. America celebrated. America took pride in this amazing accomplishment. We knew this would open doors we never dreamed possible. We knew what this meant, not only for America, but for humanity. This was something simply astonishing.

In thinking about this, I had to ask myself if we could accomplish this today. I honestly don’t know, which makes me feel sad. Heartbroken and mournful for the country I love and for what once was.

A once hard working America, that wasn’t afraid to dream big, has turned lackadaisical. An America that once valued hard work and study, is now caught deeply in the entitlement trap. An America that once rewarded and praised success, now villainizes it at every possible chance. And America that once was self sufficient now expects others to save us. An America that once embraced creativity and innovation, now discourages and wants conformity. An America that once stood tall and proud, is now far too apologetic.

I just don’t know if we could do it now.

But once, we did. Once we stood together in a moment of absolute greatness, and we were one. One in pride. One in accomplishment. One in spirit. One nation. One people. United in splendor.

In that moment, we dreamed. We dreamed lofty and grandiose ideas, and we celebrated those dreams. For we knew we could accomplish anything.

We were America.

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