31 August 2012


by Andy Weddington
Friday, 31 August 2012

"High achievement always takes place in the framework of high expectation." Charles Franklin Kettering

Some fifty years ago President John F. Kennedy, speaking to the citizenry - as individuals and as a nation, set an expectation of each American and a goal for America. 

His expectation, "Ask not what your country can do for you - ask what you can do for your country." Clear enough.

And his goal, our goal, as noted during a joint session of Congress, "First, I believe that this nation should commit itself to achieving the goal, before this decade is out, of landing a man on the moon and returning him safely to earth." Or as he put it in another speech, "We choose to go to the moon." That too clear enough.

With that, Americans had their marching orders - an individual directive and a collective challenge - from their president. He could not have put his philosophy and vision any simpler when summarizing, "In a very real sense, it will not be one man going to the moon it will be an entire nation. For all of us must work to put him there."

Last Saturday, Neil Armstrong, that American man who first put foot on the moon and returned safely to earth - meeting President Kennedy's goal of before the decade (1960s) was out - died. Though sad for some, better a happy memory, with good timing, for the masses - of a breathtaking national achievement that will live forever.

Mr. Armstrong represented the remarkable intellect, ingenuity, sacrifice, commitment, courage, passion, and drive of a country - led by the vision of a president who knew America as a land unlike any other of this world and the only one capable of such a feat. He was right. And still no man other than American has left a footprint in moon dust.

In contrast to the tone that put one of our own on the moon, the mood in America today is different - not so much puzzling as it is disturbing. What's missing in too many a citizen is that spirit of self-reliance, personal responsibility and accountability, and a sense of duty to country. And also missing is that expectation of selfless contribution to country and a big arrow direction, as set by the president, for the collective to pursue and conquer.

There is nothing old-fashioned about a president asking citizens what they can do for America. Nor is there anything old-fashioned about a president setting a national goal even if seemingly not of this world. Quite the contrary, that is the American way and an inherent part of a president's job.

What every American president must do is inspire - through appeal to each man, woman, and child. And inspire by challenging the nation to achieve what may seem unachievable. That goal must be substantive (hope and change is not a 'moon'), and it must be something that fuels self-confidence, pride, patriotism, and a desire to contribute and carry on despite occasional failure. It must be something big! 

That goal must require every citizen to pitch in, in some fashion, with both hands (not spectate and await handouts). That goal must be beyond the average man's vision and stimulate the question, "How in the world are we going to do this?"; it must spark ingenuity and entrepreneurship; it must be dangerous with risks aplenty - some manageable yet some unforeseen; and achieving it must etch a defining moment in history - for the citizenry to cheer and embrace forever; like putting a man on the moon.  

This commentary was drafted Monday. Starting Tuesday evening I tuned in to the Republican National Convention. I listened to the speeches. I listened closely to Mr. Ryan Wednesday evening and closer still to Mr. Romney last night. How eerie when he made reference to the moon and Neil Armstrong. My instant thought - exactly.

But it's not enough for a president to fix the economy; to curtail debt; to balance the budget; to maintain a peerless military; to reform healthcare, education, and immigration; and so on and so on. Those are the expected courses of every day government business in any civilized and advanced country - especially America. From a land that has already time and again proven itself exceptional there must be more. Again, that big thing.

President Kennedy's dictum "Ask not what your country can do for you - ask what you can do for your country," is as relevant today as fifty years ago. Every president would be wise to resurrect those words - searing them into the American psyche and work ethic. And then lay out their goal, a big one, to be achieved before the decade is out. 

So the questions for every president are, "What is your expectation of each citizen and what goal is on your mind? What 'moon' do you see on the far horizon?"

Today there is no 'moon.' Our tone, our reality, is more akin to that of being sucked into a big black hole. The president, a now proven unremarkable fellow with an alien mental model of America, has, though momentarily crippling, failed in his warped designs to marginalize the United States. No vision; a void of leadership and inspiration; and lack of a national direction and grand purpose is why much of our citizenry - angry, frustrated, restless, and starved for leadership - is cynically asking, "Are we there yet?"

No, we're not there. We're somewhere but certainly not there.

One word perfectly encapsulates the last four years - lunacy.

So what is America's next daunting 'moon'? And what president will see it, challenge, and lead the way? And which American(s) will represent what could only be realized through the genius and not-to-be-denied efforts of the collective?
Who knows.

But moonwalkers and 'moonwalkers' - the seers and the doers - are made only in America. That is something Mr. Romney well knows. And he also well knows something about escaping black holes and reaching 'moons' - but he can't do it alone.

Post Script 

America's next 'moon' need not be Mars nor anything celestial whatsoever but this video is interesting. It is an incredible statement to American know-how. http://youtube.googleapis.com/v/XRCIzZHpFtY

1 comment:

Steve said...

Great job.