EDITORIAL: Lessons learned from Apollo 11 moon landing

Fifty years ago, Americans gathered at their television sets and witnessed history as man walked on the moon for the very first time. For those few, precious moments while glued to their screens, American citizens did not feel divided; instead, they were united and shared in a pride that is uniquely American. 

But now, that American pride and unity seems to have diminished. Instead of celebrating our differences and our accomplishments, all too often we knock each other down for those very same reasons. 

America was not perfect in 1969, but with the help of more than 400,000 people, including native Appalachians, we made it to the moon. It was a collective effort, with men, women and people of different ethnicities and backgrounds collaborating to achieve an American dream. An American flag made it out of our country and into outer space, to be forever planted in this new territory. That alone should send a small tingling of chills through every American’s spine, as well as make our hearts swell with pride. It certainly did 50 years ago.

America is certainly not perfect now either, but it seems we have lost something in these past 50 years. When John F. Kennedy was president, he vowed to get us to the moon. In a way, he succeeded, though unfortunately he did not live to see man’s footsteps on the moon. 

Here was a president who boldly proclaimed on his inauguration day: “Ask not what your country can do for you—ask what you can do for your country.” 

Those 400,000 people working on the Apollo 11 project did so for their country. Kennedy was absolutely correct to ask that every American do what they can for the greater good of our country. 

But in a stark contrast, 50 years later, our president is now telling people to leave the United States, even though they have immigrated here legally and are doing what they believe is right for their country. They are serving in government offices and fighting for their beliefs. Regardless of political spectrum, serving one’s country and trying to improve it should be praised, not reduced and belittled.

No American citizen should be told to “go back to where they come from” or be told to leave our country, unless, perhaps, it is to go to the moon. To get us back on the moon, to plant another American flag planted on that cratered, lunar surface. Maybe that will inspire relative peace and unite Americans once more. 

If Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin landed on the moon today, how different would the reception be? We wouldn’t tell Armstrong to go back to where his family came from, would we? And we certainly wouldn’t tell the people of color who worked on the Apollo 11 project to go back to where they came from. If we did, we wouldn’t have made it to the moon. 

In 1969, the moon landing sparked patriotism in our country. Yes, people back then still had their differences, and politics still weren’t pretty, but people took pride in America and worked to fix what they weren’t so proud of. Let us learn from them. If we focus on the bad things about our country, including negative and disrespectful comments from our president and other officials, we will only feel discouraged. 

Under the light of the moon, with its American flag, we are not so different.