The 60s – The Shape of Things to Come Part 5

From President John F. Kennedy’s speech at Rice University, September 12, 1962:

“…If I were to say, my fellow citizens, that we shall send to the moon, 240,000 miles away from the control station in Houston, a giant rocket more than 300 feet tall, the length of this football field, made of new metal alloys, some of which have not yet been invented, capable of standing heat and stresses several times more than have ever been experienced, fitted together with a precision better than the finest watch, carrying all the equipment needed for propulsion, guidance, control, communications, food and survival, on an untried mission, to an unknown celestial body, and then return it safely to earth, re-entering the atmosphere at speeds of over 25,000 miles per hour, causing heat about half that of the temperature of the sun–almost as hot as it is here today–and do all this, and do it right, and do it first before this decade is out–then we must be bold.”….

“We choose to go to the moon. We choose to go to the moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard, because that goal will serve to organize and measure the best of our energies and skills, because that challenge is one that we are willing to accept, one we are unwilling to postpone, and one which we intend to win, and the others, too.”

On July 29, 1969 at 4:18 PM, Neil Armstrong transmitted:

Houston, Tranquility Base here.  The Eagle has landed.

Americans, rising to a great challenge from their President placed men on the moon.  At 10:56 PM, Neil Armstrong transmitted the following message as the first man to set foot on the moon.

That’s one small step for a man, one giant leap for mankind.

Visionary leadership willing to challenge our country to achieve great things is powerful.  Some things are so grand and important that they transcend ideological squabbles.  Those traveling the halls of Washington, DC would do well to take that great leadership lesson to heart by walking away from pettiness and seeking greatness.  Unfortunately, it appears the lesson did not make it out of the 60s.


Certainly there are other events worthy of mention and it would not be proper to leave the decade without talking about the Woodstock Rock Festival or the British Rock and Roll invasion, but I have never been accused of being proper.  Besides, these events are merely extensions of the Hippie counter culture.

With all that happened in this decade, what most decided what we are is where we were when?  It may have been the culmination of events.  There is high probability that each of us experienced different life-shaping events.  But in my humble assessment beginning in the 1960s the walls between groups, ideologies, and culture have grown thicker and taller.  Crossing it to find middle ground and common sense is most times a reach too far.

Out of the 60’s we became a people at war with ourselves.  We are unable to share the American pie as one side must always dominate the other.  One identity group must be preferential to all the others.  The media, not confounded by facts, hold and build on the power of persuasion they come to realize in the 60s Vietnam era.  We either hold to a higher moral authority or we completely reject it and have little tolerance for any who believe differently from us.  On that topic, we cannot even listen to one another.   We either accept our founding principles or reject them.  America is either an exceptional country or it is not.  And it goes on and on.  Idealism whether right or left, hyphenated identities and whatever group think we are part of takes precedence over the value of relationships.  We cast off friends because of who they voted for.  With our unyielding ideologies we have become incapable of doing what is best for our country.  Certainly no group, except in their own view, has cornered the market on good ideas.  What we are is where we were when.

It may be hard to accept that people and events from one decade can have such and impact for decades to come, but what I see today does not differ from what I saw and experienced during the 1960s. It is only more magnified and more dug in.  If Dr. Massey’s theory is proven, then it is altogether possible that people from this generation will understand that we are now a broken society and they can see why.  And just maybe if we can survive as a country our children and grandchildren will inherit a country not in social, political and cultural upheaval.  Because of where they were when.

Copyright © 2017 J. D. Pendry