Goals galvanize Americans, and we need one

Published 12:00 am Monday, February 15, 2010

A few days ago, when President Obama said the Bush administration’s plan to send Americans back to the moon by 2020 was being scrapped, a lot of people reacted by saying things like, “Good, we can’t afford that.”


A year ago, when the new president endorsed resuming lunar missions, he proposed an $18.7 billion allocation to the National Aeronautics and Space Administration.

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For next year, without lunar mission, the president suggests a $19 billion slice of the federal budget for NASA.

For those not good at math, that’s a $300 million increase. No money is being carved out to “feed hungry children” or “invest in education.” No money is being “saved” for other purposes by canceling future trips to the moon.

The president is a highly educated man, but one doesn’t get the sense he’s “people smart.”

If nothing else, America’s history shows that when we are collectively motivated — when we have a goal we want to reach — we reach it.

Charlie Mitchell is executive editor of The Vicksburg Post. Write to him at Box 821668, Vicksburg, MS 39182, or e-mail.

It wasn’t a foregone conclusion that the colonists would achieve independence. A majority of residents were indifferent or opposed to parting ways with the British. But once the disparate people from Georgia to Maine were stirred up, the British didn’t have a chance.

It wasn’t a foregone conclusion that Americans would win World War II. President Franklin Roosevelt was elected three times on a pledge to keep this country out of foreign affairs. Pearl Harbor galvanized the nation.

For 100 years after the Emancipation Proclamation, enforcing second-class citizenship for minorities was OK by most. TV cameras in Selma and elsewhere showed that was wrong, and the majority rose up to demand Jim Crow laws be banished.

And in 1961, when John F. Kennedy called for the nation to “land an American on the moon and return him home safely by the end of this decade,” the national will was cemented toward accomplishing that goal, as impossible as it seemed, and it was done.

President Obama says NASA is important — $19 billion worth of important — but wants the focus to be on commercial uses for space travel and product development.

Those aims are noble, but not well-defined.

And they show President Obama could learn a thing or two about how this nation works.

America is languishing from the effects of the worst private economy since the Great Depression got Roosevelt elected. Millions of citizens are also distraught because we’re in two wars that seem unwinnable, and are unwinnable by any conventional definition.

So it seems that a “people smart” president would come up with a fixed, definite and achievable goal and try to rally the national spirit.

It wouldn’t have to be a moon mission.

But that’s as good as any.