…Neil Armstrong stepped onto the face of the moon and took “one giant step for mankind.”
That was back when we were dreamers, living in the Can-Do America that the Post War generation had created. The moment was not only historic and celebratory, it was also poignant in that it was the martyred JFK who had promised that we could achieve what seemed impossible to many before the decade of the ’60s was done.
Kennedy’s election was understood to signal the passing of the torch to a new and younger generation before the end of the Camelot presidency in Dallas revealed–a message not entirely grasped in the horror of the moment–that the center of the American dream was not going to hold. Then the Vietnam War brought down his successor, but not before LBJ pushed the Civil Rights Act through the Congress and gave one of the greatest speeches in Presidential history. That too marked a giant step, one marked in blood and pain and heroism by ordinary citizens around the nation.
In the White House on July 20, 1969 to bask in the glory of the moment which rightfully belong to his greatest political foe was Richard M. Nixon, a touch of irony to prove that the gods will have their laughter at our expense. His presidency would crash on the rocks of Watergate a little more than five years later, setting in motion forces which shaped the shattered body politic and deep divisions of the 21st Century.
Can-Do America was yesterday and is long gone. Today we are a nation that dreams no dreams and takes baby steps if it take any steps at all.