As a nation, we need to get exited about science and exploration. When President Kennedy inspired the nation, telling us we would go to the moon, setting that goal did much more than create a space program. It inspired our nation to dream big. That shared national dream changed our culture. It created a national pride that wasn't focused on war, or religious battles, or party affiliation. We would be the first to go to the moon and back.
School curricula developed around the space program. An entire industry that might otherwise have been focused on war, turned to supporting the space program. We watched as a nation and felt we were all part of each success. The entire world watched as we actually landed on the moon. In stature - in our minds and around the world - we grew in measures far greater than the cost of the space program.
I was fascinated by the space program. While I never wanted to be an astronaut, I believe it inspired me to want to explore the world around me and to ponder those much larger questions. I'm quite happy when I am imagining and considering larger dreams. There is more out there - something bigger - and if we search for it, it will change how we see the world. It's an unending exploration.
I wonder about the impact of the dream to go to the moon. In the 60's and through the 70's, there seems to have been an explosion of free thinkers. If we could go the moon, why couldn't we overcome segregation? If we could go to the moon, why couldn't we overcome poverty? If we could go to the moon, why couldn't we overcome women's equality issues?
People began to act on their bigger dreams.
By the 90's, the nation grew weary of all those dreams. We no longer watched every space mission together as a nation. We acted as though segregation, poverty and women's equality issues were old news and no longer important concerns. We don't dream together about solving greater problems and have no shared mission on which we can agree.
Our national culture has changed dramatically to one that is largely driven by protecting the status quo and even rolling back any progress made in terms of race, poverty and women's equality. Our motto has become "All for one - and that one is me."
Until we can again get exited about exploring, this trend will continue. The issues we face need to be examined as a scientist would examine them - fact based and free of emotion. We need to have a shared vision and end goal. We need to dream and we need to explore. We need courage.
Imagine what would happen if President Kennedy was telling our nation today that we would go to the moon and back. A corner of our mass media machine would immediately attack the idea and constantly talk about how crazy, wasteful and impossible it would be. Then a large block of Congress would do all in its power to shut it down. More than likely, the vision would go nowhere.
That's our culture today. We are a nation going nowhere.