Friday, April 08, 2005

Neil Armstrong

Space Ref has an article up concerning Neil Armstrong earning the ACEC's Distinguished Award of Merit for 2005. This is one of countless awards and recognitions for which he has been recognized in the last 35 years. I've always been of the opinion that one reason this hero deserves so much respect is that he doesn't really like for people to make a big deal over him.

It was by coincidence yesterday that my youngest daughter came home from school to tell me she had chosen Neil Armstrong as the subject of a research paper. I asked her why she had picked him "Is it because you want to write about him or is it because you know I admire him?" She gave me the standard little kid response "He was the first man on the moon, and he's cool."

Well, he *is* cool. He's cool because to earn the commander's seat of Apollo 11, he had to spend the first part of his life working hard on that American path to success. But to me he is doubly cool, because after Apollo 11 he did not seek to capitalize on that success in a shameless or self-promotional way. Neil Armstrong's post adventure desire was to become a college professor. From there he went on to serve on the boards of several businesses, where I have no doubt he just kept plugging away in the quiet competent manner to which he is accustomed. But in today's America where people of no accomplishment whatsoever become celebrities for engaging in nothing more than unbridled hedonism or shameless self-promotion; Neil Armstrong is the quiet man. He did what we asked him to do. He did it well. And then he went quietly home to his Ohio farm.

There's a town in Ohio called Cincinnati. It is named in honor of Quinctius Cincinnatus a Roman citizen-soldier who served his country, and like Neil returned to his farm to live quietly. That's the way it is supposed to be. I hope someday my daughter understands that.

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