Thirty-one years ago, on January 28, 1986, we lost Challenger on takeoff. Sixteen years ago, on February 1, 2003, we lost Columbia.
Two of the saddest days in the history of our country, but rather than ponder the sadness and loss, I’d ask that we ponder what motivates great women and men to do incredible things and take mind-boggling risks and dream big?
Where does an individual get the courage to strap on a rocket and 15 mins after takeoff in Florida is somewhere over Italy flying 17,500 miles per hour.
John F Kennedy dared to dream of going to the moon:
“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 we intend to win, and the others, too.”
Ronald Reagan dreamed of a new world from the Brandenburg Gate:
“General Secretary Gorbachev, if you seek peace, if you seek prosperity for the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe, if you seek liberalization, come here to this gate. Mr. Gorbachev, open this gate. Mr. Gorbachev…Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!”
And with the most powerful words of all….last month we celebrated the birthday of Martin Luther King, Jr. who dared to dream of a new future for our country to be a beacon of hope that would change the world:
“I have a dream that one day every valley shall be exalted, and every hill and mountain shall be made low. The rough places will be plain and the crooked places will be made straight, and the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together.
This is our hope. This is the faith that I return with to the South with. With this faith, we will be able to hew out of the mountain of despair a stone of hope. With this faith, we will be able to transform the jangling discords of our nation into a beautiful symphony of brotherhood. With this faith, we will be able to work together, to pray together, to struggle together, to go to jail together, to stand up for freedom together, knowing that we will be free one day. And this will be the day. This will be the day when all of God’s children will be able to sing with new meaning, ‘My country ’tis of thee, sweet land of liberty, of thee I sing. Land where my father died, land of the pilgrim’s pride, from every mountainside, let freedom ring.’
And if America is to be a great nation, this must become true.
So let freedom ring from the prodigious hilltops of New Hampshire; let freedom ring from the mighty mountains of New York; let freedom ring from the heightening Alleghenies of Pennsylvania; let freedom ring from the snow-capped Rockies of Colorado; let freedom ring from the curvaceous slopes of California. But not only that. Let freedom ring from Stone Mountain of Georgia; let freedom ring from Lookout Mountain of Tennessee; let freedom ring from every hill and mole hill of Mississippi. From every mountainside, let freedom ring.
And when this happens, and when we allow freedom to ring, when we let it ring from every village and every hamlet, from every state and every city, we will be able to speed up that day when all of God’s children, black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics, will be able to join hands and sing in the words of the old Negro spiritual: ‘Free at last. Free at last. Thank God Almighty, we are free at last.’”
As I think about these great people this morning, I thank God for them and the gift they were to us all – to change the world – and I realize we can all change the world big or small we all can make a difference and ultimately change the world.
S. Darrin Johnston is a C Suite Management Executive in the housewares industry.