Neil Armstrong, American astronaut and first man to set foot on the moon died this week. Many have eulogized him for his capability, his tenacity and his reluctance to seek out the spotlight. He certainly had all of those qualities.
Because of who he was and what he did, people listened to what Neil Armstrong had to say over the years, especially about what it was like to be part of the American space program in the 1960’s. Much that he said was recorded, and this is what he had to say about the work ethic of the tens of thousands of men and women who helped to extend our footprint into the new frontier of space during that era. (The quotation is from NASA’s Oral History Project):
When I was working here at the John Space Center, then the Manned Spacecraft Center, you could stand across the street and you could not tell when quitting time was, because those people didn’t leave at quitting time in those days. People just worked, and they worked until whatever their job was done, and if they had to be there until five o’clock or seven o’clock or nine-thirty or whatever it was, they were just there. They did it, and then they went home. So four o’clock or four-thirty, whenever the bell rings, you didn’t see anybody leaving. Everybody was still working.
The way that happens and the way that made it different from other sectors of the government to which some people are sometimes properly critical is that this was a project in which everybody involved was, one, interested, two, dedicated, and three, fascinated by the job they were doing. And whenever you have those ingredients, whether it be government or private industry or a retail store, you’re going to win.
Those Space Center workers were “interested” because they were part of something bigger than themselves, “dedicated” because they were working for something they believed in deeply, and “fascinated” because they couldn’t believe their good fortune to have jobs that brought them both.
That’s the kind of work I’m writing about on these pages—work that all of us can do and should do, but usually aren’t doing.
Why do you think that’s so?
Is 21st Century America so different?
Why aren’t more of us working for our hopes and dreams, fascinated by the possibilities?
And what does that says about our future?
Rose Auslander says
George Simonson says
Hi, Dave. Nice post. I think it’s at least possible that many, if not most, of us are working toward our hopes and dreams, and are fascinated by possibilities. I’m more alarmed by the fact that our country as whole doesn’t seem to be doing so. Sixty years ago America was building schools and highways and preparing for a space program — in other words, aiming for a future (just as China is today). Meanwhile, we’re looking back toward the past, neglecting our infrastructure, forgetting about basic research, letting our schools decay, investing in the elderly (which is humane and proper — but, again, past-oriented), “eating our seed corn,” etc. Neil Armstrong’s achievements were made possible by a nation with a vision.