Lessons from an Historic Lunar Landing: How We Need to Remember

Saturday will mark the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 landing on the moon.  I remember sitting in front of a television set and being riveted with those pictures and words coming from the moon.  First, we heard "The Eagle has landed."  The picture quality was not the best, but you had to remember that this was 1969 and no one had taken photographs from the moon before.  Those pictures were amazing.  Then we watched as from that landing craft a ladder descended.  Suddenly an astronaut began his descent down that ladder.  Neil Armstrong hesitated briefly as he reached the bottom rung and then placed his foot upon the soil of the moon.  Those of us who watched that evening will never forget his inspiring words: "That was one small step for man; one giant leap for mankind." 

After all these years I can still remember that moment.  I can still remember the thrill of seeing the American flag planted on the soil of the moon.  I remember how good it was to be an American.  Working together Americans had accomplished something never heard of before in the annals of human history.  We had successfully landed men on the surface of the moon.  That heavenly body which we had studied from a distance for centuries, could now be seen "up close and personal." 

And how did this moment happen?  It came because of someone's dream.  In his inaugural address in January 1961 President John F Kennedy spoke of a dream of sending men to the moon in his lifetime.  The space race was still in its infancy so that challenge was a great one, some thought almost impossible.  Unfortunately President Kennedy did not live to see the fulfillment of his dream, having died by an assassin's bullet nearly six years before.  But his dream did not die. 

This weekend as we take time to remember one of the great moments in the history of the world, certainly in the history of our nation, I would like to have us stop and ponder that moment.  How did it happen?  Like I have said, it began with a dream just as do most great accomplishments.  Then it took teamwork for that dream to be realized.  It took people willing to make the sacrifices necessary so that dream could become a reality.  The team crossed ethnic, cultural, and economic divides.  The team was composed of engineers and designers, of receptionists and clerical workers, of custodians and flight specialists.  Each person knew his or her role.  They worked together! 

I wonder if such a dream could be accomplished today?  We have become a nation so fractured that to think of working together to accomplish a dream almost seems beyond the possible.  Little cracks within our socio-cultural-ethic dimensions have become major crevices that, at time, almost seem unbridgeable.  And I wonder if we have the heart and compassion to even desire to bridge those chasms.  There certainly is little unity within our nation's governmental structure.  The rancor seen yesterday on the floor of the House of Representatives, often called "America's House," remind of another time when such rancor led to the dividing of this nation.  And, as we know, that division was only bridged after a four year Civil War.  Perhaps, that "binding up of those wounds" as President Lincoln described them in his final inaugural address, has not fully been realized although that war has been over for over 150 years. 

So, we will gather on Saturday and remember another time, another era, another moment when America demonstrated before the world its steely resolve.  For one brief moment, perhaps, we will be grateful that we are Americans.  At that moment we need to ask ourselves this question: What is the next dream that will unite Americans from every racial, ethnic, socio-economic, and cultural background?  Or will we sadly conclude that we no longer have such dreams?  If our answer is the latter, then I am saddened for the future that is ours and that will be left to our children and grandchildren.  For, as we read in Proverbs - "where there is no vision, the people perish" (Proverbs 29:18, KJV).


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