On this weekend in 1969, 52 years ago, the Sunday edition of The Philadelphia Inquirer, our local newspaper, included in its special edition, a large glossy color print of the astronauts landing on the moon on July 20. I taped that photo high on the wall, almost touching the ceiling of the farmhouse bedroom wall where brother John and I had our bunk beds. The unwritten but well understood message of that event and that era was that we, as a nation, could do anything we set our minds on.
We saw that photo every day. The message of its meaning confronted us as we climbed out of bed each morning. We were the rural middle income kids of a single father, without any noticable social advantage or predictor of notable future achievement. But as I look back on that era and the parenting and societal mentorship of that era it could be encapsulated in that photo:
We, as individuals, can do anything that we set our minds on.
As far as I know, that photo remained on the bedroom wall of the farm house until the farm was sold when I was in graduate school more than a decade later. Coincidently or not, both John and I went on to become national champion athletes in our own different sports and each of us launched separate businesses that were recognized as national leaders in their respective fields. Anecdotal coincidence? Perhaps, but it still feels like a compelling connection all these years later.
For younger generations who may not understand the psychological impact of this moon landing event had on millions of us then, I feel sad to think that their memories will be of multibillionaires efforts to exploit space. I feel sad that the nation has lost its way and ability to commit to common goals. I feel sad that the abilities of individuals to accomplish great things are limited by the widened gaps in wealth, income and community influence compared to our world of decades ago.
Today we continue to march forward with the same values, influences and sense of determination. But my perception of the world’s opportunities has clearly changed.