We’ve all had times when we have had a document to prepare – a skeleton that seems to grow in size and weight until it could only be the skeleton of a mammoth or terrible lizard, a position statement where your position makes no sense, a case summary where you feel like you are loading ammunition into other people’s guns for them, perhaps even a best man’s speech (hi Shah).
Having found this, I will try not to bitch about having a different document to prepare. This was a speech that William Safire was asked to write for President Nixon. (I already like William Safire, because he argues that it is wrong to say that “Jim munched a hot dog” because you can’t munch anything that doesn’t make a crunching noise)
At the time, Buzz Aldrin and Neil Armstrong were on the moon and the world was watching. The third astronaut, the one with an unenviable job, was orbiting the moon thousands of miles above them. His name was Michael COLLINS (dumb error changed)
One of his jobs was that if the Eagle lander couldn’t take off again, he was to leave the other two astronauts on the moon and come home. No glory, just an unspeakable thing to have to do. Leaving his colleagues to their certain death. This was a real genuine possibility – you simply couldn’t do a dry run of whether that lander could take off as expected, you just had to hope.
And President Nixon needed a speech, in case that happened, and the two men who were America’s great heroes had to be left up there on the moon. No prospect of rescue. They would have to starve, run out of air, or just take their helmets off and surrender. He asked William Safire to write the speech. It had to be a good one, obviously, because of the awful tragedy that would have occured. It would have to give praise to the astronauts, but also hope for the future. And it had to be a speech that the author, although he had put his heart and soul into it, had to hope would never, ever be used.
Here it is. I honestly think it hits the mark in every regard. It emerged 30 years later, in a bunch of documents released about the Nixon administration. Heaven knows, there probably weren’t a lot of documents from the Nixon administration that could lift up your soul and improve your view of human endeavour, but this is one.
Fate has ordained that the men who went to the moon to explore in peace will stay on the moon to rest in peace.
These brave men, Neil Armstrong and Edwin Aldrin, know that there is no hope for their recovery. But they also know that there is hope for mankind in their sacrifice.
These two men are laying down their lives in mankind’s most noble goal: the search for truth and understanding.
They will be mourned by their families and friends; they will be mourned by their nation; they will be mourned by the people of the world; they will be mourned by a Mother Earth that dared send two of her sons into the unknown.
In their exploration, they stirred the people of the world to feel as one; in their sacrifice, they bind more tightly the brotherhood of man.
In ancient days, men looked at stars and saw their heroes in the constellations. In modern times, we do much the same, but our heroes are epic men of flesh and blood.
Others will follow, and surely find their way home. Man’s search will not be denied. But these men were the first, and they will remain the foremost in our hearts.
For every human being who looks up at the moon in the nights to come will know that there is some corner of another world that is forever mankind.
(I had not been aware of this until I saw the xkcd cartoon today, but I liked it sufficiently to want to share it with all of you. )