The Wilmington Star News has a nice tribute to the late Neil Armstrong that’s worth a read this morning. As the editorial noted:
Armstrong’s feat represented more than a mission to send a spacecraft to the moon. The space program at its peak represented the American spirit of adventure, the need to find out more about our universe and, as a result, our own planet – and ourselves.”
Armstrong’s passing should also serve to remind us of a time in which Americans successfully pulled together for a common, public purpose — a time in which it wasn’t unfashionable to talk about personal sacrifice for the common good beyond military service and in which it could be okay for macho men to support public institutions that did not make them or their friends wealthy.
One of the main reasons that Armstrong’s first step on the moon resonated so deeply with most of the Americans alive on July 20, 1969 was not because of (as it might be today) our desire to celebrate one person or to anoint a new celebrity; it was because so many of us felt in some way that we has played a small part in helping Armstrong get onto that ladder he descended to the lunar surface. We had watched the space program on TV, shared in its successes and tragedies and felt the common public commitment to fulfill a murdered president’s promise that we would put a man on the moon before the end of the decade.
In the years ahead, it would be a fitting tribute to Armstrong and the other heroes of the space program if Americans put aside some of their cynicism and morbid attachment to the individual accumulation of money and things and rediscovered their capacity for shared sacrifice in support of great public accomplishments that advance the common good.