Ask yourself a question. Who is the most famous person you’ve ever had the chance to meet or just get physically close to? It might be a famous actor, a President or maybe someone very rich.
Late one summer not too long ago, my wife and I were driving home from work and she mentioned she needed to stop at Walgreen’s to pick something up. It was a beautiful summer evening, sunny, blue skies, warm with a touch of humidity. Since the weather was wonderful, I told her I would wait outside while she went in.
I got out of our Ford Escape and while standing on the sidewalk, the Walgreen’s automatic front doors opened. Out walked an elderly couple. The gray haired man, somewhat frail, wearing glasses, gently held the woman’s hand. I glanced over, and as two men will do, we both gave each other the “guy head nod.” I smiled as did he and the couple walked to their car parked near the store’s front entrance. I looked over again and caught the gentleman’s eyes and he gave me this look as to say, “Oh please. Don’t say anything.” I thought it weird and continued standing on the sidewalk. The older gentleman helped his wife into the car, closed her car door, then walked around the back of his nice, but nondescript car. He got in and buckled up. I looked at him again. I smiled. He smiled back at me through the car’s windshield and pulled away.
That’s when I realized, “Oh my God. That’s Neil Armstrong!” That Neil Armstrong, arguably the most famous man on planet Earth. The first guy to walk on another orb. The “One Small Step” Neil Armstrong.
After his trip to the moon, Armstrong, an Ohio native, lived in Cincinnati where he became a professor at the University of Cincinnati before retiring. Famous for his desire for privacy and his nonchalant attitude of his accomplishments, I discovered he went to Walgreen’s just like you or me. Armstrong was just a common man who stayed true to his image.
I often wondered if on warm summer nights and days with a full moon he sat on his back porch with a cold drink, looking up and thinking, “Been there. Done that.” If he allowed his ego to sneak through every now and then, even privately, it would be understandable. But, I’m guessing that never happened.
Many know the history of the Apollo space program, the risks and the life threatening problems of the missions. It doesn’t need repeating here. Let’s just say Neil Armstrong (and the others who flew and landed on the moon) had to be one fearless American bad ass, confident of his skills, never doubting his goals, without any need for fame or future reward.
There’s an old joke comedian Robert Klein used in his act. Armstrong’s first step on the moon was the biggest commercial opportunity in history. Planet Earth was watching and listening that July night 45 years ago and he had the opportunity to set his family up for generations. All he needed to do was take that first step onto the moon’s surface as say, “Coca-Cola!”
As we recognize the 45th anniversary of man’s first steps on the moon, the next time you read about a Hollywood celebrity that is famous for no other reason than being famous because they have their picture taken coming out of a bar in Beverly Hills. The next time you see a pro athlete on television bragging about their greatness playing a child’s game. The next time you hear some egomaniac on the radio telling you what to think because of their sense of self importance. Think of Neil Armstrong and what he accomplished in life.
Sorry Kid Rock. I love your act. But, you’re not an “American Bad Ass.”
Neil Armstrong was the definition of that.
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