John F. Kennedy was dead. His slain body lay in Arlington National Cemetery. The eternal flame burned already, as it has ever since. But the late president’s charge to the nation must have burned in their hearts.

Fifty-four years ago, they were on their way—the nation was on its way—to fulfilling his impossible dream.

Three astronauts—Neil Armstrong, Michael Collins, and Edwin “Buzz” Aldrin—were on their way to the moon.

“I believe that this nation should commit itself to achieving the goal, before this decade is out, of landing a man on the moon and returning him safely to the earth,” Kennedy declared to Congress in 1961.

He later expounded on his vision in a touching tribute to the United States’ pioneering spirit, as inextinguishable as the flame that would one day light his grave.

“This country was conquered by those who moved forward—and so will space…. We choose to go to the moon. We choose to go to the moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard, because that goal will serve to organize and measure the best of our energies and skills, because that challenge is one that we are willing to accept, one we are unwilling to postpone, and one which we intend to win, and the others, too.”

SEE ALSO: Grant – A hero for diffident Gen Z men

“Many years ago,” he concluded, “the great British explorer George Mallory, who was to die on Mount Everest, was asked why did he want to climb it. He said, ‘Because it is there.’ Well, space is there, and we’re going to climb it, and the moon and the planets are there, and new hopes for knowledge and peace are there. And therefore, as we set sail, we ask God’s blessing on the most hazardous and dangerous and greatest adventure on which man has ever embarked.”

His lucid words notwithstanding, Kennedy’s vision was not always popular, at one point, opposed by a majority of Americans. Some things still seemed impossible, after all—even for the almost-chosen people. America had rocketed from a destitute band of unremarkable, unassuming, and low-ranking Puritan seekers to the mightiest nation on Earth, but space would surely prove our limits. Why even try?

Barry Goldwater spoke for more than himself when he deemed the project a “wasteful endeavor.” Even Dwight D. Eisenhower, who established NASA, considered the president’s ambition “nuts.”

But Kennedy’s answer was simple: we would conquer space simply because that’s what Americans do. Sure, it was, at least, partially about proving ourselves to the world, but it was also, more importantly, about proving ourselves to ourselves, proving that we still were the same dauntless nation of pioneers and adventurers.

SEE ALSO: David McCullough and why we tell stories

On July 20, 1969, the Apollo 11 crew more than proved this—they epitomized the indomitable American spirit for generations to come. They reaffirmed American exceptionalism when they planted the Stars and Stripes far above planet Earth, a constant reminder of the faith that built this nation from the ground up.

“We’re the children of explorers that came here from every corner
The adventurers that settled this land
We led the world, fought tyranny, touched the stars, brought liberty
Let’s do that again,” reminisced Brad Paisley.

“Tonight, I dare you to dream
Go on, believe impossible things
Whenever anybody says there’s anything we can’t do
I mean, after all, there’s an American flag on the moon”

Today, our vision—our impregnable ambition—may look nothing like Kennedy’s, but we fight for the same flag. Whether it’s calling the first-ever Article V convention or, more broadly, saving this nation, what is our “impossible” dream? Convention of States Action is almost ten years old at this point. In that time, we’ve seen people throw up their hands and throw in the towel. But they can hardly be blamed. We are, after all, attempting the impossible. It is the outrageous challenge “we are willing to accept… we are unwilling to postpone… we intend to win.”

To do anything less, quite simply, would be un-American.

No matter the opposition or how high the odds are stacked against us—with a firm reliance on divine Providence—we will soldier on, dream new dreams, and we will never stop exploring.

“I mean, after all, there’s an American flag on the moon.”

Jakob Fay is a staff writer for the Convention of States Project, a project of Citizens for Self-Governance.

About The Author