By Alden L. Benton
July 20, 1969. I can remember the day very well despite the passage of 43 years.
I was 19 years old and was glued to the television set. I was waiting to see something that had never happened in all the millennia of human history. One solitary man, though backed by a cast of thousands, was about to leave the relative safety of his ship and step out onto the surface of the moon.
His words have become symbolic, not just of the peaceful exploration of space for the betterment of all humanity, but of the indomitable spirit that drives humans to attain impossible dreams, often at great risk.
“That’s one small step for a man; one giant leap for mankind.”
Today the world has lost an iconic hero. Neil Armstrong has begun his final mission to touch the face of God.
According to the Washington Post, “Neil Armstrong was a quiet self-described nerdy engineer who became a global hero when as a steely-nerved pilot he made ‘one giant leap for mankind’ with a small step on to the moon. The modest man who had people on Earth entranced and awed from almost a quarter million miles away has died. He was 82.”
The world should mourn is passing not because of his accomplishments, but because of his courage to face the unknown and to go where no one else had ever gone. That is the definition of a hero.
Neil Armstrong, and all the other American astronauts and Soviet cosmonauts were indeed heroic in their accomplishments. However, Neil Armstrong stands above the rest not just by being the first, but by being humble.
According to the Washington Post article, in a public appearance in 2000 Armstrong said “I am, and ever will be, a white socks, pocket protector, nerdy engineer and I take a substantial amount of pride in the accomplishments of my profession.”
However, this “nerdy engineer” also had the courage to stand by his principles and, when necessary, speak out in their support.
“A man who kept away from cameras, Armstrong went public in 2010 with his concerns about President Barack Obama’s space policy that shifted attention away from a return to the moon and emphasized private companies developing spaceships. He testified before Congress and in an email to The Associated Press, Armstrong said he had ‘substantial reservations,’ and along with more than two dozen Apollo-era veterans, he signed a letter calling the plan a ‘misguided proposal that forces NASA out of human space operations for the foreseeable future.’”
Neil Armstrong was a quiet, principled man who had fame thrust upon him. Despite that fame, he had the courage to live his life on his own terms. In an age of anti-heroes, violence, and incivility we need men and women who exhibit the faith, courage and humility of Neil Armstrong.
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