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Darryl Woodard

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On Channeling Kennedy, Our Failure of Imagination and America's Two Other Crises

Posted: 11/22/2013 1:26 pm

"We choose to go to the moon (applause). We choose to go to the moon (second applause). We choose to go to the moon in this decade and do the other things. Not because they are easy, but because they are hard." -- President John F. Kennedy excerpt from speech given at Rice University on September 12, 1962

Fifteen years ago a TV miniseries was launched in 1998 titled From The Earth To The Moon. Winning impressive awards -- a Golden Globe for Best Miniseries and an Emmy for Outstanding Miniseries -- each of the 12 episodes starred talented acting with a brief opening narration by Academy Award-winning actor Tom Hanks also as executive producer. Among the long list of praiseworthy actors, Bryan Cranston, currently known for his Emmy Award-winning role in the AMC Drama Breaking Bad, portrays Astronaut Buzz Aldrin. Academy Award-winning actress Sally Field directed Part 11 episode, "The Original Wives Club," about the astronaut wives, as well as having a minor role as Trudy Cooper wife of Astronaut Gordon Cooper. John Slattery, known for his role as Roger Sterling in the Emmy Award-winning AMC drama Mad Men, also portrays Senator Walter Mondale in Part Two of the inquest episode "Apollo 1."

Also actress Rita Wilson, wife of Tom Hanks, portrays Susan Borman, wife of astronaut Frank Borman. Mark Harmon, currently known for his lead role of the TV drama NCIS, portrays astronaut Wally Schirra. Then there's the multitalented Al Franken -- author, former writer and cast member of Saturday Night Live TV comedy and formerly an actor -- who portrays science adviser Jerome Weisner to President Kennedy in Part One, "Can We Do This?" And of course Mr. Al Franken is currently at it in another endeavor, as a United States senator of Minnesota.

The excerpt footage of President Kennedy's Sept. 12, 1962, speech, scripted above, would begin before each of the 12 episodes. And thus it would all begin, each followed by a brief opening by Tom Hanks, the epic TV saga depicting the historic and most stupendous scientific undertaking ever embarked upon in the history of mankind.

In Part Two, "Apollo 1," the episode gave an account of the tragedy inflicted upon the three brave astronauts during a routine launch pad test, and the resulting inquest that followed. In the final scene of the Senate inquest hearing, actor David Andrews, a graduate of Stanford Law School who quickly quit being a lawyer to become an actor, portrayed astronaut Colonel Frank Borman. And in that scene, the astronaut was asked a question, whereas depending on how he answered would determine the fate of the Apollo space program: "Colonel what caused the fire?"

The astronaut's opening reply was brief, "A failure of imagination." From which in that scene he further answered:

"We've always known there's the possibility of fire in a space craft. But the fear was always that it would happen in space. That was the worry. No one ever imagined that it would happen on the ground. If anyone had thought of it, the test would have been classified as hazardous. But we just didn't think of it."

To which the astronaut concluded, "Now whose fault is that? Well it's North American's fault (the aerospace company), it's NASA's fault, it's the fault of every person who worked on Apollo. It's my fault. I didn't think the test was hazardous. No one did. I wish to God we had."

After that the Apollo program not only survived but also thrived. For the next manned mission was named Apollo 7 rather than Apollo 2, perhaps for good luck. Whereas from there on, fulfilled the desire of President John F. Kennedy for our nation. To land a man on the moon and return him safely to earth before that decade was out. Done and done!

In the words of author and playwright Steve Kluger on page 43 of the USA Today Special Edition titled, "JFK November 22, 1963," there is an excerpt within a sentence, "...he was depending on his country's imagination in a big way." And that is what we as a nation is sorely lacking today. For not only do we have a failure of imagination, but also a poverty of imagination, which also happens to be a chapter title in the book The Rich and the Rest of Us: A Poverty Manifesto, by authors Tavis Smiley and Cornel West.

So it's a failure of imagination, and two other crises that plagues America today. Which if not given that same swift attention as America's harkening into space in the early 1960s, as well as prompt action and care, the two crises could grow to be intractable. And those two crises are, the rising income inequality in the United States and the desperately needed health care reform.

When Soviet Cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin became the first human being into space on April 12, 1961, the event sent shock waves around the world. More so to the United States, signifying to the leader of the free world that a communist country made the bold venture into space first. It was then that America wasted no time. We dealt with it, and came out boldly ahead years later on July 20, 1969, being the first country to land a man on the moon. Now we are behind again only this time compared to several other countries at least, and by not acting fast enough.

According to The Atlantic magazine online article titled, "Map: U.S. Ranks Near Bottom on Income Inequality," by Max Fisher on Sept. 19, 2011, the news is dire. The color map of the world portrays how income inequality is measured by what's known as the Gini coefficient, measuring a country's economy on a scale from 0.00 to 0.50, with 0.50 as the most unequal. The U.S. is in purple and has a coefficient of 0.450 as near extreme inequality. Not only that, we have joined those other countries in purple having nearly the same income inequality such as Cameroon, Madagascar, Rwanda, Uganda, and Ecuador.

In the New York Times recent online article, "Inequality in America: The Data Is Sobering," on July 30, 2013, by Eduardo Porter, it goes further. When measuring the U.S. against the world such countries as Germany, France, Poland, Norway, Turkey, Australia, Canada , all come out ahead as more equal, whereas the U.S. ranks near the bottom in income inequality and literacy inequality. Norway also ranks first according to the Legatum Institute Prosperity Index of 2013, a nonpartisan organization based in London that measures both a country's social and economic capital. And I've since already compared Norway to the U.S. in my previous HuffPost blog titled "Viking Virtues = Viking Capital."

On Monday, Nov. 18, 2013, on MSNBC NOW with Alex Wagner, guest Kathleen Parker, a conservative syndicated columnist, had mentioned that Republicans know we do not have the best health care delivery system in the world. And that you have to give the Democrats credit for at least they created something. That is when discussing the Affordable Care Act or Obamacare.

Yes, it's been 50 years since President Kennedy's assassination, but let's remember him for his ability to inspire all Americans to boldly risk the imagine to become reality, instead of all the conspiracy theories. In Part 12, last episode From The Earth To The Moon, actor Daniel Hugh Kelly portrays Gene Cernan, astronaut of Apollo 17, the last mission of the Apollo program. And in that episode he says while on earth, "For the people who live on that green and blue ball, there is no difficulty they cannot overcome, no solution they cannot grasp, no distance that they cannot travel. Me standing in the Valley of Taurus-Littrow (on the moon) is proof of that."

 
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