Shooting for the Stars
Today (and tomorrow), I want to talk about how unity and peacemaking played a foundational role in one of America’s most astonishing accomplishments: the Apollo 11 moon landing.
The audacious goal of men on the moon was made a part of the national conversation by John F. Kennedy:
“There is no strife, no prejudice, no national conflict in outer space as yet. Its hazards are hostile to us all. Its conquest deserves the best of all mankind, and its opportunity for peaceful cooperation many never come again. But why, some say, the moon? Why choose this as our goal? And they may well ask why climb the highest mountain? Why, 35 years ago, fly the Atlantic? Why does Rice play Texas?
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.
It is for these reasons that I regard the decision last year to shift our efforts in space from low to high gear as among the most important decisions that will be made during my incumbency in the office of the Presidency.”
And just like that, a new national dream was born.
So how did it happen?
Did the parties constantly bicker and backstab and undermine each other?
In this extraordinary case, no.
They reached across the aisle to make it happen. They talked with each other coordinated, worked together to make sure that NASA had the funding it needed to complete the boldest scientific mission heretofore accomplished by mankind.
And when Apollo 11 took off, not only were all Americans watching, the whole world was watching.
As three American men took off on an unprecedented journey deep into space.
As two men touched down on the lunar surface, while the third circled around the moon by himself, waiting to pick up his companions for the journey home.
As the first man stepped onto the moon, planted the American flag, and uttered those iconic words, still known by people the world over, no matter who they are and where they come from:
“One small step for man, one giant leap for mankind.”
The whole world waited with bated breath as Mike Collins stopped his solo revolutions to pick up Neil and Buzz, and the three rendezvoused above the moon.
As the three circled around the moon one last time to launch themselves from its gravitational sphere, to jettison their craft back to earth.
As they safely landed, just 2 miles off target, and came home safe, sound, and whole, having completed a historic journey, the likes of which had never been seen before.
When we put aside our differences and divisions, we can accomplish so much.
The strength of a rope depends on every single thread, like the strength of a nation depends on every single person.
To me, being a peacemaker is not just about feeling good about each other, and having peaceful lives (although I do think that peace is a prerequisite for happiness).
Being a peacemaker is about launching a new era of extraordinary American accomplishments, the kind we can only begin to dream of if we do it together.
Will you join me in my mission?