When Neil Armstrong became the first man to land on the moon and said, "This is one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind," he believed in those words wholeheartedly, and he became an American icon who inspired a nation to believe there was no dream too far-fetched or impossible to achieve.
As a child, I recall my father and mother telling my siblings and I that anything was possible so long as we were willing to work hard enough and believe in what inspired us, and that there was no such thing as failure.
This was the era and the America that I grew up in. We ate dinner each night together as a family, followed by gathering in the living room to watch Walter Cronkite say, "And that's the way it was."
And even though we were confused about 'what it was' that was going on in a country mired in anti-war and civil rights protests, the women's movement and social change that cannot be equaled by any other decade, we did care and we were involved.
My parents worked hard and never complained, and instead kept an even keel and positive yet passionately-charged attitude about the struggles we faced as a family and as a culture.
As far as us kids, we all did a lot of chores, went to school, got jobs as soon as we were able, put ourselves through college, respected our elders and educators, and learned that respect was something to be earned, not simply given as a national birth right.
As a matter of fact, I knew from an early age that I would have to earn everything in life that was worth earning, and that nothing I was given freely was worth keeping for long.
Neil Armstrong landed on the moon when America needed it most.
As a country that was built and forged by sentimental and eternal optimists, we were-- as a nation-- beginning to lose faith in the dreams of our fathers and mothers while we witnessed far too many assassinations of loved leaders and deaths of young soldiers for a war no one understood or could fathom.
Perhaps it was even selfish, some of us thought, to pay any attention at all to a seemingly impossible and frivolous dream such as landing on the moon.
Besides, the moon was both a physical and fantasy-laden dream that seemed so very far away and out of reach. But that is precisely why 'the landing on the moon' came at such an integral time; at a time when our very nation's emotional stability also seemed somehow forever out of reach.
With a continuance of bad news on the home front wherein we all had to keep bearing up emotionally and physically at all odds, how could we even spend our precious time wondering if there was anything worth visiting other than the Earth that we clearly did not even understand?
But it did happen, and Armstrong's simple and yet profound words reminded us all once again that we were still a nation of believers, dreamers and go-getters like no other.
As a nation enthralled in a storm of a nasty, dirt-fought presidential election wherein political campaigns, special-interest group tyrants and public relation machines attempt us to distract us with issues they think we should pay attention to rather than what we need, Armstrong's life and achievements remind us of the America that we used to inhabit and hopefully will continue to strive to be and stand for.
As the parent of young children, I refuse to give up on our country as I have the supreme responsibility to allow them the same American dream and unmatched principles of idealism that I had.
This means that I attempt to echo the words of my father, of his father and of my great grandfather who taught each generation afterwards the sentiment of American writer and philosopher Mark Twain who once said, "Action speaks louder than words, but not nearly as often."
This is now what I teach to my own daughters who speak often but thankfully choose their words carefully and their actions even more so.
My unapologetic hope for this country is that we have not given up on what is dream-able and that there are more Neil Armstrong's who will come along and show us the way to new frontiers in the most "out-of-this world" manner.
Mr. Armstrong, as a member of mankind, I am forever beholden to your adventuresome and unbridled spirit.
As a mother, I am honored that I may tell your story to my own children who will benefit from your being able to live out an amazing dream that will inspire them to live out their own dreams as well.
And as an American, I salute you with my entire heart and being and know full-well that you epitomize what is truly still great about this nation . . . that unbeaten combination of a natural sense of wonderment, eternal optimism and the hard work that it takes to see a dream through to fruition.
I only hope the America that 'we once were' is one we can still attain and come close to being once again . . .
Not just for the sake of nationalism or power, but because our founding fathers and the ones who followed knew a thing or two about how to form and maintain an unmatched country built upon one single principle . . . that as individuals we can achieve anything if we only set our minds to it and work hard enough.
May you Rest in Peace Neil Armstrong.
This country mourns your loss greatly in ways we could not have foreseen.