Monday, January 21, 2013

A Sputnik Moment

Inauguration Day!

The day of American pomp has arrived, and even though the true constitutional  inauguration was yesterday, we Americans still know how to make the most of an excuse to celebrate. We'll double celebrate this year as it's Martin Luther King Day as well.

Wonder what President Obama will say to the people who stand before him and to those who are watching on global networks. He's said something before that I think he could work from, if I could be brazen enough to suggest. In his 2011 State of the Union address he said, in reference to the task ahead, "This is our generation's sputnik moment."

Sputnik I. Click image to expand.
Sputnik I

Perhaps there are some in this generation who have no point of reference to what a Sputnik Moment could be, and I'm not sure the connotation that the president means is what I've interpreted or even want to interpret. But the children of the fifties at Pilot Mountain School knew exactly what a sputnik moment was. They lived it. If they didn't walk outside in the evening and spot this satellite moving across the sky, they at least read about it in their Weekly Readers.

It was the rocket that went into space on October 4, 1957, the first in the space race, and Russian, not American. Best explained by Fred Kaplan in the online Slateit is "the single word that has symbolized ever since the fear of slipping behind in a dangerous world."

It didn't appear all that dangerous to those children who traced its path across the sky. To them it was a fascination, a marvel. That speck in the sky reflecting the sunlight represented a new reality that the wildest of dreams could come true. The sky was no longer the limit.

That generation of children went out into the world with that mindset. They could overcome. They would conquer space. Oh, there is much more yet to be done, both here on earth and in the wide blue yonder as well, much they didn't accomplish. But there is the future for that. 


Yes, Mr. President, we need another Sputnik moment. We need to go out and gaze at the possibilities and, rather than fretting that we are slipping behind, we need to inspire the children of this new generation as they stand looking up tonight. 

Catch of the Day, Inauguration Day, Martin Luther King Day


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