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Sunday, August 26, 2012

Recent Passings: Neil Armstrong

Thoughts on the Death of a World Hero

Neil Armstrong died earlier this week. He was 82.

Armstrong was a hero for the world -- not just our great country. He symbolized a number of characteristics that demonstrate the human condition.
  • He gave his best every day.
  • He worked collaboratively, aware that in this age of adventure one can only achieve great things through teamwork.
  • He was committed, to his work, his country, and to his objective.
  • He was modest -- genuinely so, in the way that is so unique for those Americans raised in the Middle West (in this case, Ohio) during the Twentieth Century.
I know the press -- and politicians eager to take credit for the achievements of others -- are eager to state that the moonwalk was a victory for the United States in the Cold War. This is limiting, and it is a throwback to the concerns of a distant age.

Armstrong's moonwalk was a victory of the Imagination, and it was a victory for the world. Every young person watching his first steps on television in 1969 knew this was an important event that transcended countries and politics. His moonwalk demonstrated that humans are really amazing creatures, capable of accomplishing nearly any task -- if only we will focus our energies collectively on the goal.

His moonwalk confirmed,also, that humans are genetically hardwired to explore, and there are new frontiers waiting for us: We can reach out and touch the planets and, eventually perhaps, even the stars.

America and the world owes a debt to Armstrong and his generation. His recent death is a reminder that the first moonwalk was call to action -- a call to work collectively and cooperatively to accomplish great things, and to remember that there are really no limits to what we can do if we allow the Imagination to be our guide.

A good article about Armstrong appears here in BusinessWeek: