In 1961 President Kennedy said something that, at the time, and based on then technology, was ridiculous. In speaking to Congress on May 25, 1961 , he gave the nation a goal of “landing a man on the Moon and returning him safely to the Earth” by the end of the 1960…” The moon? a man on the moon? It was fanciful…and ridiculous…it was only possible in the cartoons.
The nation’s reaction, however, was “well, why not? why can’t we go to the moon and why can’t we be first? we should at least try!” And then the nation was off to the races! Everyone was excited about it and talking about — even though it really did seem beyond possibilities. The moon?? It was fun for the nation’s attitude to be so excited – trying to achieve what seemed to be absolutely impossible. We were inspired!
The media also joined in. The media was inspired and helped inspire the nation. The media did not laugh at President Kennedy and say he was a fool. The media helped cheer the nation on to try to achieve what really seemed only a reality in science fiction movies or cartoons.
And yes, we did it! We got there and we got there first. It was one of the nation’s most exciting moments. It showed what we could do. Nothing seemed impossible.
Now fast forward to 2012 and Former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich and the race for the Republican nomination. Gingrich raised the issue of our space program and said, “[b]y the end of my second term, we will have the first permanent base on the moon and it will be American.” He was talking about exploring. Reports were that when Gingrich said it, the crowd – on Florida’s space coast – erupted in applause.
And then it was the media’s turn to react. They laughed at his idea, they laughed at him and even SNL did a parody of it. The idea was ridiculed.
And frankly, whether you agree with Speaker Gingrich or not, want to do it or not, Gingrich’s idea when he said it, was possible because we have now been to the moon and we know it is possible to do more there if we want. When President Kennedy’s gave the nation the exciting dream in 1961 his idea was not possible.
That is where we are and that is the media. We have changed. Cynical, negative, even nasty and full of the ‘what’s in it for me’ attitude.
What happened to us?
PS – why does it take a national crisis a heartache like 9-11 for us to be nice to each other….and even that was short lived.