CHEERS to the sense of national unity inspired by the Apollo 11 moon landing.

It can be easy to forget, in telling that story of success, that Buzz Aldrin, Neil Armstrong and Michael Collins launched from a United States still reeling from the turmoil of the 1960s.

That the president who had first set the nation’s sights on the moon had been gunned down only 6 years earlier.

That the U.S. was still knee-deep in the war in Vietnam with no end in sight.

And that countercultures — from college protesters to the Woodstock crowds later that summer — were loudly questioning what the country stood for.

But Americans of every creed, often fighting for radically different sides, came together to root for the three men in the space capsule.

As locals would tell the Press-Republican in the days after the landing: This was an American achievement.

This was American money, American research, American engineering, American piloting and, perhaps most importantly, that classic American ambition to go above and beyond.

As Bill Hart of Plattsburgh Air Force Base told the paper for its July 22, 1969, issue: He was proud the U.S. was first and this honor “fell to the States.”

Now, a half-century later, the United States again finds itself bitterly divided over the direction of the nation and what it means to be American.

It seems each day brings a new proposal for a national goal or project that is roundly cheered by one side and viciously jeered by the other.

We hope that the coverage of Apollo 11 this year not only reminds everyone of what happened on the moon but what happened back here at home.

That the United States dreamed big. That Americans pledged to do the impossible. That they shot for the moon and had the determination to keep that goal going through three presidential administrations.

That they rallied behind a leader who declared that Americans work toward dreams “not because they are easy but because they are hard.”

Today, that leader could be anyone, whether President Trump or another candidate in the 2020 race.

But we argue that whomever is seeking to lead our nation needs to have that timeless American ambition and shout it from the rooftops.

To propose the kind of goal that will again have Americans of all stripes turning up the radio or turning on the TV.

And when that goal is reached, to cheer as one: “We did it.”

 

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