It made an indelible impression on her young four or five-year-old boy. I lived in San Diego California, and vividly remember one Autumn evening when I was allowed to stay up past my bedtime to join my Uncle and my Father in the
backyard of our home. It was a strange gathering. I remember my Father and my Uncle, my Mother and Aunt and the younger Cousin staring up at the night sky while my Uncle held a then state of the art transistor radio. As they stood there quietly talking among themselves, suddenly my Father pointed upwards and said “there it is”.
It was simply blinking lights in the sky. It passed over rather quickly, but I remember distinctly hearing from my Uncles radio a chirping beeping that sounded rather like a strange bird. What made the biggest impression upon me was the look on my Father and Uncle faces. I don’t want to say that they looked scared, but I do believe they were grimly concerned.
This in my memory. What my family were watching was the flyover of the Soviet Unions first satellite known as Sputnik. My family remembers the event, but of course others have tried to disabuse of this memory. Whatever it was we watched that night made someone in our group ask a very simple question – “can they drop a bomb from that thing?” The
answer from one of the older males in the group was “if they can get that thing up there, they can do just about anything!” “They”, of course were the Soviet union.
Over the years I thought more and more about the October evening in the dark San Diego backyard when my Father worked for Ryan Aircraft which was the company that made Lindberg’s famous plane, “The Spirit of St. Louis”. And my Uncle worked for Convair which was the company that I found later on was supposed to develop the rocket which was supposed to carry the United States own version of Sputnik but because of military and scientific wrangling was having all kinds of problems. These were former military man, who had served their country and went to work in areas that were developed to protect the country and advance our ability to wage war and also to serve scientific advancement.
This event, plus the Soviets putting a man into orbit lead four years later to one of the most monumental speeches ever given by a President of the United States. John F Kennedy standing before a joint session of Congress set the United States upon a path to land a man on the moon and bring him home safely within the next decade. He said it, and the United
States did it. I have listened to and read his speech and nowhere in it can I find any statement like, “I believe that the United States and its allies”, or the United States and Serbo/Croatia, or the United States and the British Commonwealth or the United States and any other conglomeration of the world’s political associations should do this; but the United States of America. He specifically said “we”. He galvanized this country and this people.
When the first man on the Moon arrived there and got all the stuff necessary to be on the Moon came off the ladder and stepped on the moon for the first time, he spoke the immortal words “one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind”. He was supposed to say “one small step for a man” but let us cut him some slack and understand that this was the product of nerves. He must’ve been nervous to be so far away from that tilting blue planet and recognizing that he had done something that even today seems improbable and fantastic. Let us know what he did not say. He didn’t say that he claimed the entire moon and it’s surface to be the property of United States of America, (that was banned by forward thinking lawyers). He didn’t proudly proclaim that everybody in the world was a bunch of dumb backwards fools who either could not or would not do the hard work necessary to get to the moon. He didn’t waggle his fingers behind his ears and go “nadder, nadder, nadder”. He didn’t even take a slap at the backwardness and true nastiness of the Soviet Union. He declared that what happened was for the benefit all mankind. He spoke the generosity of a great nation and a great people.
Today it seems as if we have to apologize for being good, technically advanced, and richly blessed. Today even the marvelous accomplishment that took place for all mankind has to be rewritten, or symbolically denigrated. A new movie starring Ryan Gossling, who just happens to be a Canadian, leaves out the setting of the American Flag on the surface of another satellite that circles the Earth and it is frustrating. It was a deliberate act on the movie makers part and explained by the Canadian but I don’t care about explanations. These things happen all the time in our culture and they can become deadly. If Armstrong knelt on the moon and held up a fist before the flag that would have been shown and made the center piece of the movie. The symbolism of things like flags and mottos and pledges leave some cold. Yet they are the things that are attacked symbolically to prove points. National pride is not a sin and covering real sin to achieve some kind globalist world view is no virtue. Watering down achievement is not a leveling, but digging a trench to bury a spirit of love of country.