Monday, July 20, 2009

Passages and Anniversaries

One the the aspects of aging is the passage of the people who have "always been there." It begins with grandparents, great aunts and uncles, and others from the generation removed. Then it is your parents, their siblings, and other members of their generation in prominent positions. Eventually it will be your contemporaries.

Walter Cronkite was, for many Baby Boomers, the guide through adolescence into adulthood. I recall watching "You Are There," a television program that reenacted pivotal historical events with Cronkite "on site" reporting the "breaking story." Cronkite became the CBS news anchor in the early 1960s. This was the era of a television in every home. Instead of gathering around the radio to learn the details of the Hindenburg or Pearl Harbor, we sat in front of the television to watch live action. Keep in mind that this was a new concept, everyone in the nation watching the same news story at the same time.

Walter Cronkite was there to guide us through President Kennedy's assassination, Oswald's shooting, and then the solemnities of a presidential funeral. From Cronkite we learned about Martin Luther King Jr.'s assassination as well as Bobby Kennedy's murder. He provided nightly updates on the Viet Nam War and visited the battle front, as he'd done during World War II and Korea. Conkrite's enthusiasm for the space program was contagious and we were educated along with him about rocket ships, space capsules and lunar modules. Cronkite was there to explain Watergate as we saw a burglary evolve into Congressional hearings every bit as fascinating as a soap opera.

Of course, Walter Cronkite wasn't really part of our lives and we didn't really know him. But his was the face and voice that introduced us to events that would shape our world and Cronkite helped explain what they meant at the moment and for the future.

I read in today's paper that the median age of U.S. residents is about 36, which means half the people in the US weren't alive when Neil Armstrong first set foot on the moon.

*sigh* Difficult to explain how exciting it was at the time. Sad to think how quickly the Apollo missions became "ho hum." Even sadder to consider how mundane are space shuttle take offs and landings today.

Personally, I wish we had pursued the space exploration program with the same priority it had during the Cold War Space Race. The argument against the space program is the expense. Yet the same people who propose cutting the NASA budget want to fulfill contracts for airplanes that the Pentagon no longer desires and keep open unnecessary military bases -- because these costly efforts provide jobs for the voters in their districts. Like the Space Program doesn't provide even better paying jobs, as well as develop innovations that make it into our every day lives.

I'd rather have my tax money spent on space travel than wars. But I'm a science fiction buff, so I'm prejudiced.

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