Newsline , Society

America – Belief, Genius, and Persistence

Posted on Thursday, July 20, 2023
by AMAC, Robert B. Charles

America is unique in many ways. Three are belief, genius, and persistence. Many nations have citizens who believe, are gifted, and persistent – but none has a culture, history, and identity built on those values. And nothing says it like Apollo 11’s July 20, 1969 moon landing. Americans are remarkable.

Fifty-four years, Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin, and Mike Collins headed for the moon in a rocket larger than any built before or since, fighter pilots, fear in check, ready to manage what came, aware the world needed a success, global security resting on what they did – so far from Earth a thumb covered all humanity, working on a computer with one-one millionth the power on the mobile phone you own.

Those are true facts, but what made the mission a success was more than the courage and tenacity, perfectionism and fearlessness of three men, one of whom is still with us – Buzz Aldrin, incredibly a healthy 93, who married the love of his life Anca last January, was promoted to brigadier general in May.

What created the unlikely success of Apollo 11 – a mission conceived ten years earlier, pursued with the singlemindedness of Jefferson in the Declaration, Washington through the Revolutionary, American military men and women in all our wars – was America’s character.

When much of the world feared the future, Soviet and Chinese Communism rising, nuclear war a palpable concern, global leadership in short supply – Americans allowed themselves to understand their own uniqueness, the role we played in history, and must again.

In 1960, young president John F. Kennedy succeeded the distinguished former WWII Supreme Allied Commander Dwight D. Eisenhower – both former military men, both confident in the possible, both daring, unapologetic, profoundly patriotic, different in style, but not their faith in America.

Their belief in the future – in America’s obligation and ability to lead – was rooted in different life experiences, but equally firm, no chinks, no apologies for that conviction, no doubt about our obligation to step up, inspire, consolidate, protect and shape the future, no shying or crying.

Eisenhower left office concerned about Soviet intentions and war, as well as growth of bureaucracy, an unholy alliance of big government and big industry. His biggest fear was the Soviets – that they would outflank us where it mattered most, in technology, specifically space. Kennedy shared those fears.

When the Soviets launched the world’s first satellite, Sputnik, Kennedy rallied the nation. With support of both parties, he offered a daring “throw down,” alternative to nuclear war – a race to the moon. Why? “We do these things … because they are hard,” he intoned.

What followed was an extraordinary turn in human history.  Before the world, the most established republic on the planet risked all. 

Despite cultural fissures, fears of violence internally, Vietnam looming, turbulent race relations, and intergenerational conflict, we pulled ourselves into alignment with Kennedy’s singular goal.

The entire nation rose to the occasion, committed ourselves – as a nation – to get to the moon, in that way help lead the world out of perpetual fear, into a belief in the possible.

The belief part – was shared by all Americans, regardless of politics, age, race, economic status, education, geography, ethnicity, or any other way you could divide us, wanted to prove to the world our word was good, our resolve – when unified behind a goal – unshakable. We were all in for the moon.

Then came the genius part. Rather than naming engineers, chemists, physicists, dreamers and doers, suffice to say, the WWII generation and those who saw what they did began to conceive things no one had thought before, then – with determination – build them. 

Never before had anyone undertaken as unlikely a mission, with stakes all humanity’s future, and resolved that a free people – let loose with their genius – could beat their communist opponent.

Fewer years lie between WWII and Kennedy’s pledge than between today and the 2008 recession. Having saved the world from fascism, America pledged to beat communism. Free people do such things.  

Then came the persistence, much needed. The Soviets put the first astronaut in space. Of 20 unmanned Mercury launches, six blew up. Apollo One killed three astronauts. In the final Gemini mission, the docking computer failed. Buzz Aldrin, a PhD in astronautical engineering, docked it manually. Crewmate Jim Lovell, would later save Apollo 13.

Persistence comes in many forms, but perhaps Apollo 11 illustrates best how that works. Having worked with Buzz for 25 years, he has quietly retold tense moments. One always floors me. Here it is.

On July 20, 1969, he and Neil landed on the moon, walked, returned to the lunar module, but in the process snapped off the circuit breaker that controlled power to the ascent engine. The world did not know it, but they now faced a potential eternity on the moon.

Mission control told the two to sleep, while they studied the problem. No answer. The breaker – now a hole in the panel – was on Buzz’s side. He considered using a pen to push it in, but that was metal, conducted electricity, might short the circuit. His finger might do the same, so that was out.

Finally, he found a felt-tipped pen, not even on the manifest list. Why was it there? “I liked the fat marks it made on the checklist, so brought it.” When the world listened to countdown for launch of the ascent engine, Buzz noting they were “first on the runway,” what next occurred was Buzz inserted the pen.

All kinds of bad things, especially nothing, might have happened. Instead, resourcefulness, belief, a certain kind of American genius, and persistence paid off.  The engine lit. Three days later, they splashed down, home, Kennedy, America, and freedom vindicated. Now, 54 years later, you know the rest of the story. Americans are remarkable.

Robert Charles is a former Assistant Secretary of State under Colin Powell, former Reagan and Bush 41 White House staffer, attorney, and naval intelligence officer (USNR). He wrote “Narcotics and Terrorism” (2003), “Eagles and Evergreens” (2018), and is National Spokesman for AMAC. 

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10 months ago


Very well written article. Having traveled the world, a few things seem to distinguish American culture from that found in many other countries. At least they used to anyway. Those traits are Ingenuity and tenacity. The idea that anything is possible and that no matter what, there has to be a way to succeed and reach the desired goal. Whatever that goal may be. It just requires some intellectual curiosity to gather the necessary knowledge to formulate a solution and then the risk-taking mindset to try new, out-of-the box approaches to solving the problem. Your Apollo 11 and other stories are a perfect analogy to all of that. As a matter of fact, much of the American high-tech industry has been a direct result of that approach, which as a result has allowed the United States to far excel beyond most other western nations in terms of innovation.

Much of the rest of the world has unfortunately handicapped itself by promoting a culture of thinking in terms of conformity and essentially “playing it safe” or sticking to a very narrow band of accepted thinking. In short, there is an emphasis on maintaining the status quo. In such an environment, innovative thinking isn’t likely to flourish or even be encouraged. Unfortunately, both cultural traits have been under direct assault by the left in this country for some time now. Their goal of dumbing down the American public to make their ideology more acceptable and appealing to the average citizen is also destroying the culture that fostered both ingenuity and tenacity.

10 months ago

I remember the moon landing well. Happened on my 16th birthday.

10 months ago

Bravo RBC

10 months ago

Wow! Reading this article brought back so many wonderful memories of that launch and time period. I spent the first eight years of my life in the jungles of Venezuela and then moved to London. Talk about two ends of the spectrum! Life was definitely different. Anyway, I spent most of my academic life in the UK. I remember that summer so vividly. But, what I remember the most was how proud I was to be an American. At that time, Americans were known for their creativity, innovation, imagination, perseverance, and so on. It was such a magical time to be an American abroad! It still is, but its greatness has diminished a bit. Through the eyes of the global community they are now seeing a pattern of confusion, division, violence and a great deal of instability. They are worried. I am worried. Not just for our instability, but as an educator, I’m very worried about our schools and our youth. They are losing their sense of curiosity and wonder. They are too busy looking down on their screens and not up into the skies of imagination and dreams. We must come together as great Americans always have and encourage each other, but especially our youth, to look up into the skies to see hope, perseverance and wonder.

anna hubert
anna hubert
10 months ago

American greatness is a thorn in the eye of all small minded tyrants and dictators craving power sitting on their thrones propped up by bayonets

10 months ago

RBC: Great insight into American greatness! Thanks for sharing.

10 months ago

As usual RBC, my comment to you has been censored by AMAC. What a shame since there was nothing wrong with it.

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