A national purpose for the U.S. I wrote a blog in June of last year suggesting that the United States needs a national purpose. Something that the country as a whole could embrace.
I was struck, at the time, by two events. Riots in the streets of many U.S. cities, and the success of the first private commercial delivery of astronauts to the International Space Station. I suggested in that blog that the first event was looking backwards and the second was looking forward.
I did not deny the importance of the riots, but suggested they reflected problems that should have been solved years ago by responsible citizens and an ethical government.
The space success reminded me of the space race of the 1960’s. The shock to the U.S. psyche of Russia putting Sputnik into orbit, first with Lena, a dog, and then with Yuri Gagarin, an astronaut, galvanized the U.S. into national action. President Kennedy’s commitment to put a man on the moon produced a generation of Americans with a national purpose. Thousands attended lift-offs at Cape Canaveral, now Cape Kennedy, and thousands more were glued to their television sets watching the spectacles of space flight. The entire nation held its breath for several days when the aborted flight of Apollo 13 struggled to get back to Earth. The feeling of nationalism and societal cohesiveness was unprecedented, and reached across almost all barriers and national divides.
If it worked so successfully then, in bringing the nation together, I thought, why couldn’t it work again. Maybe, just maybe, it could happen on a planetary level this time, not just on a country level.
The events subsequent to that blog last year have only exacerbated the issue of a lack of national purpose. The fraught presidential election, and the storming of the Capitol, each contributed to a new low point.
It may be difficult to define a national purpose, since so many elements contribute to such a concept. I suppose it starts with sensible, believable, empathetic, charismatic and competent leadership, and we certainly have had a dearth of those elements recently. Those positive qualities must not only exist, they must also be obvious to majority of the population, if a national purpose is to evolve.
In that blog last June, I was totally pessimistic about the creation of a national purpose for the United States. The potential re-election of Trump, the rise of the fanatical “Right”, the inability of the democrats to get their act together on almost anything, all contributed to my pessimism.
Today, I have had to eat those words, and I am very pleased to do so.
The U.S. is now re-joining the world community in an active role. President Biden has stated his intention of working closely with allies to take on the abuses of China and Russia, and he has appointed a team that has the experience to know what it is doing, which makes a significant change.
AND, he’s just committed to putting a man and a woman on the moon by 2024.
Maybe, just maybe, we have a national purpose for the U.S.