“That is one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind”, Neil Armstrong, on July 20, 1969 said these words from the Sea of Tranquility, on the surface of the moon.
My dad, along with hundreds of others, helped put Mr. Armstrong on the moon and then bring him and his crew home.
I was three years old when Mr. Armstrong landed on the moon. My dad worked for a company where he wrote contracts with other companies, for the Apollo program and many other space programs, including the Space Shuttle journeys. Space exploration was a part of our family’s blood.
Since we lived in California, back when astronauts were launched into space in Florida, we were up before the sun to see launches on our black and white television. We then made sure we watched again, as the capsules splashed down in the Pacific Ocean. What an amazing site for a kid who had never even been on an airplane yet.
Astronauts were my heroes. My dad and everyone who had a part in putting them on the moon were heroes.
Don’t misunderstand me; I believe our military and first responders are daily heroes. They are in a category all to themselves, for the sacrifice these servants and their families make each day. These heroes are thought of and appreciated daily. We also have other legendary American heroes who have done extraordinary things for our country.
Many of the heroes who worked in space exploration are retired and many more have taken their final journey as Neil Armstrong has and gone on before us. So where are today’s space heroes of today and tomorrow? Who is mentoring them? Where is the next generation of America’s explorers?
During the time of space exploration in the 1960’s and 1970’s, President John F. Kennedy and others inspired us to go to the moon and beyond. People took up the challenge of what seemed impossible and made it possible.
Today, we rarely see our country’s leaders inspiring our citizens with challenges such as these, in keeping America at the forefront of exploration and advancement.
As tributes of Neil Armstrong have been made recently, so many people discussed Mr. Armstrong’s humility and his perspective of the things he did, these events not being about him but about mankind; about our America.
Brett Baier from Fox News aptly pointed out that in today’s world we are a society more focused on ourselves. We use social media to inform others of where we are and what we are doing. However someone like Mr. Armstrong, two years after his great adventure on the moon, retired from NASA and humbly went into a more private life.
There was something beyond unique related to the character of those heroes of days gone by. They dreamed big and remained humble. Their direction was guided by a light of selflessness, for the benefit of the entire country and how we would all be represented and viewed by the rest of the world.
Together, we were America.
I miss those days of feeling like all of us were a part of something big and wonderful; the days in which everyone said the Pledge of Allegiance together because they believed in it and they meant it. Or singing the National Anthem with visible, deep sincerity. These days, this seems so far away.
There is something to be said for being a country that lives by the line from Emma Lazarus’ famous sonnet, “New Colossus”: “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free…”
So many people come to America as a result of what our past heroes have done; they don’t come to continue walking through the muck and mire they are escaping.
Yet somewhere along the line, we have lost our focus. Sure, there have always been countries that haven’t liked America. They were jealous or threatened by our freedom. But those individuals who came to our shores in the beginning came here because of what we represented–what we offered. They probably never dreamed that we would ever lower our goals, dreams and standards under the pressure of mediocrity.
Where will we find and mentor America’s future heroes, those men and women of tomorrow, who will return to blazing trails and opening new paths for the benefit of all, not just themselves or special interests?
We need people who will not settle for mediocrity and live to simply exist, but who will bring America back to the heart of exceptionalism. We need those who will reach for the stars.
Thank you, Dad. Thank you Mr. Armstrong. Thank you to everyone who saw beyond themselves and whose wants were for the good of the whole and not for special interest. Thank you for taking us to the moon.
Thank you for being heroes.