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  • I am thinking a lot about the moon this week. Thinking about the whole race to put a man on the moon, which was a big part of the background I grew up in, in the sixties. We had Viet Nam, the Civil Rights movement, the explosion of Rock and Roll that really took off with the “British Invasion”, the hippie movement and the rise of the drug culture, riots that tore apart our cities and college campuses, and always, always, in the background of all of this cultural upheaval that went on while I grew from age 5 to age 15, was the race to the moon. Most of the time, there never seemed to be any doubt who would get there first – America or Russia? We all knew we would beat them to it. But, it didn’t start out that way.

    We witnessed a most powerful demonstration of leadership in the sixties, specifically the incredible power of a leader setting a BHAG (“Big Hairy Audacious Goal”). I’ve often wondered – if JFK (President Kennedy) hadn’t put that out there, hadn’t challenged the American scientific and engineering communities to get together and figure out a way to do that, would it ever have happened?

    He didn’t take a poll to see if it’s something that would help his standing with the people. He, instead, saw what was happening. The Russians were making America look like idiots throughout the late 50’s and early 60’s - they kept trumping us on things like being the first in space, and seemed to have a competitive and psychological edge there – we kept reacting to each of their accomplishments, scrambling with failed, hurried, almost comical attempts to “catch up”.

    Kennedy saw this, and decided that, instead of continuing to try to catch the Russians, let’s set this huge, seemingly impossible, long range goal, set our sights on that, and forget about keeping up with the Russians. Let’s change the script and let them try to keep up with us.

    And, that’s exactly what happened. I don’t think anyone, in 1961, believed that we would actually make it to the moon, much less walk on it, within 10 years. That was just ridiculously out of reach. One man said, “Let’s do it”, and we figured it out, and did it.

    Can you imagine what a poll would have said, had JFK had his PR people take a poll of the people, in 1961, to float the idea of whether people would think this was a good idea or not? I think they would have come back saying, “The president is nuts – he needs his head examined!”

    I say to our “leaders” today - be leaders. Appeal to our ability to reach the unreachable, to go where no man or woman has gone before, instead of pandering to our fears, and groveling around in the muck and the mire of what you think we want to hear. Be bold. Set a BHAG or two out there. Grow some stones. Make a decision without taking a poll first. I dare you. Be real leaders. Some of us remember what they were like.

    I’m including the lyrics to this song, just because I love the song, it’s been in my head this week, and it always brings back the sixties for me, with all of its iconic references. I actually couldn’t stand Andy Kaufman, but always loved this song, by REM. We played all these games. We goofed on Elvis. And, we watched in awe as Neil Armstrong walked on the moon.

    Godspeed, Mr. Armstrong!

    Mott the Hoople and the game of Life. Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah.
    Andy Kaufman in the wrestling match. Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah.
    Monopoly, Twenty one, checkers, and chess. Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah.
    Mister Fred Blassie in a breakfast mess. Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah.
    Let's play Twister, let's play Risk. Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah.
    See you in heaven if you make the list. Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah.


    Hey, Andy did you hear about this one? Tell me, are you locked in the punch?
    Hey Andy are you goofing on Elvis? Hey, baby. Are we losing touch?
    If you believed they put a man on the moon, man on the moon.
    If you believe there's nothing up my sleeve, then nothing is cool.


    Moses went walking with the staff of wood. Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah.
    Newton got beaned by the apple good. Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah.
    Egypt was troubled by the horrible asp. Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah.
    Mister Charles Darwin had the gall to ask. Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah.


    Hey Andy did you hear about this one? Tell me, are you locked in the punch?
    Hey, Andy are you goofing on Elvis? Hey, baby. Are you having fun?
    If you believed they put a man on the moon, man on the moon.
    If you believe there's nothing up my sleeve, then nothing is cool.


    Here's a little agit for the never-believer. Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah.
    Here's a little ghost for the offering. Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah.
    Here's a truck stop instead of Saint Peter's. Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah.
    Mister Andy Kaufman's gone wrestling [wrestling bears]. Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah.


    Hey Andy did you hear about this one? Tell me, are you locked in the punch?
    Hey Andy are you goofing on Elvis, hey baby, are we losing touch?
    If you believed they put a man on the moon, man on the moon.
    If you believe there's nothing up my sleeve, then nothing is cool.
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