As I listened to the tributes to Neil Armstrong a few days ago, I was flooded with the thoughts of what is required when you are first at whatever it may be. When you are first, it is no accident. It has required a pioneering spirit from your conception, or in the case of America from its inception. Neil Armstrong epitomized that pioneering spirit
. Being first can never be about the person; it must always be about the event. The significance of the happening is the important factor. The reason is simple. If the emphasis and importance are placed on the person, it becomes a celebrity event, punctuated with the notoriety that follows. If it is placed on the event, the person becomes a model and the event can be owned by all who contributed to the happening and those who will benefit from its legacy. That requires humility, vision, a sense of purpose, the heart of a servant, and a sense of inner pride. It requires courage beyond the ordinary, and will to sacrifice beyond the will of most. It requires reaching for all the stars that are in your heaven of opportunity; it requires the energy and effort to become all you were created to be. That is a personal journey that all pioneers must follow. Neil Armstrong needed no trumpets or headlines; he needed only to look up and reach for the next star. He was such an elegant model, and he will remain that model because he heralded no celebrity status to fade away or die. He was not a shooting star; he was and remains a shining star.
My America, this land that has allowed me to be and grow and strive and thrive, is a first. This great country that has allowed me to pioneer, to listen to my heart, to follow the dictates of my soul is a first of its kind. There has not been a nation created before our founding nor since our founding that is like ours. We are that unique republic, that first of a kind. It is the event that occurred with sacrifice, courage, and often great secrecy. Celebrity status would have brought death to many of our founders. They moved and worked with great purpose. Our documents were created with great risk, great vision, and a constant reaching for the stars of freedom. We have served as a model of those freedoms because we lived and fought for them. We have been proud to share the successes of those freedoms with millions. Being first requires that of us.
But I see much that makes me wonder whether history will record The United States of America as a shooting star or a shining star. Will it remain the shining star of freedom that will continue to shed the hopeful beams of freedom’s light or will it fall?
We must take pride in being first. We must accept the responsibilities that derive from being first. We must accept the humble servant status that accompanies being first. And we must never apologize for being first.