Can Neil Armstrong Unite America Again?

Neil Armstrong died Saturday at age 82. He was the first man to walk on the moon, and to many Americans, he was a hero. He was a hero to me.

During the 1960s, the U.S. space program was something everyone in our country was excited about, even during a time of tremendous turmoil (Vietnam, the civil rights and women’s rights movements, etc.). The space race brought us together. We were proud to be Americans. Proud to win.

I was born in the 1970s, and I remember vividly the great excitement of watching each shuttle launch. I remember my third-grade teacher sobbing openly when the Challenger exploded. Fast forward to 2003, when the Columbia met the same fate over Texas. I was working my normal Saturday shift that day at the paper. The mood was subdued, but there were no tears — I think in part because we were all focused on the task at hand (getting the news out) but also because America had already started to change.

Armstrong’s death saddens me. What’s happening to America saddens me. Maybe, on the eve of the Republican and Democratic conventions, we can remember what it was like to be united — and feel compelled to get to that place again.

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