Neil Armstrong’s passing this weekend gave all Americans a reason to pause and remember a time when an average civilian became a legendary hero. Armstrong was the star of TV’s greatest and most memorable moment.
But more importantly, he was the star of one of America’s best and most important moments.
No one can replace Neil Armstrong and what he meant to our collective history. However, his achievement should set the bar for the next great American moment. And how he handled making history should also set the example for how it is done.
The real way to honor what Neil Armstrong meant to America is to achieve something greater than what he accomplished.
That is much easier said than done, but just think how powerful the image was when John F. Kennedy put the idea out there that we should be on the moon in 10 years. When he said that, the United States was in the heights of the Cold War and the technology to make it happen was hard to even imagine at that point in time. It is not like JFK suggested we do something that merely took a bit more elbow grease and a few extra engineers to make happen.
However, JFK issued a challenge that every American could get behind and captured our collective imagination. It was also something that appealed to our natural sense of competition since the Russians were ahead in the Space Race.
This country needs an “American on the Moon” challenge that would unify us behind one cause.
As impossible as it sounds, I think that kind of challenge is one of the only things that can really bring this country together. The American electorate has seen days more divided than this, but not many. It needs a unifying achievement.
We need to be able to cheer on a future Neil Armstrong who can achieve something that will capture our imagination and make us proud to be Americans.
I have no idea what the next horizon is that can provide this kind of adventure, nor do I know what leader can push us toward that horizon without his or her idea being cast simply as a political stunt.
But I do know that Neil Armstrong should not be remembered as the last great American to make history. He must be remembered as the man, who along with his Apollo 11 crewmates, Buzz Aldrin and Michael Collins, set the bar for the next great American achievement.
We owe it to him and we owe it to our collective future. If we are not to become that country in decline that pessimistic pundits warn that we are already becoming, we must come up with the next big moon landing.
Armstrong’s first footprints on the moon were indeed small steps for a man. But they must not be the last giant leaps for mankind. Our future depends on it.
About The Blogger
- Dominic Dezzutti, producer of the Colorado Decides debate series, a co-production of CBS4 and Colorado Public Television, looks at the local and national political scene in his CBSDenver.com blog. Read new entries here every Monday, Wednesday and Friday. Dezzutti writes about federal, state and local matters and how our elected leaders are handling the issues important to Colorado. Dezzutti also produces the Emmy winning Colorado Inside Out, hosted by Raj Chohan, on Colorado Public Television.