What a difference a decade makes.
Forty years ago today, the most ambitious mission of exploration ever attempted by man left the launch pad and rocketed moonward. At the tip of one of the greatest controlled explosions ever created, and at the apex of one of the greatest technological efforts ever attempted, three men carried the fascination of the world and the pride of a nation away from the Good Earth toward a rendezvous with what for most of man’s history had only been a strangely shape-shifting light in the sky. Armstrong, Aldrin, and Collins placed their names at the bottom of the world’s list of explorers whose names are immortalized for taking a chance—Jason, Zhou, Yang, De Gama, Erickson, Columbus, Magellan, Polo, Lewis, Clark, and Pike, to name a few.
Thirty years ago today, the most ineffective and embarrassing American president since Grant accused the American people of slumping into a self-absorbed “malaise.”
In ten years’ time, the psyche of the American people plunged from pride at the penultimate achievement of man’s innate drive to know the other side of the mountain to self-pity and national loathing. A nation tired and leery of strong, purposeful leadership in the office of President voted for change and elected a pseudo-intellectual populist, and the nation drifted from prominence to purgatory. A desultory dance with a sputtering economy and a hapless response to events in Iran doomed the Carter administration and relegated it to an embarrassing one-term footnote in American presidential history.
In another ten years the nation was back on its feet, the sole survivor of the super-power struggle between socialist tyranny and free-market republicanism. Here’s hoping history continues to repeat itself.