This past week, we celebrated the life of civil rights leader and congressman John Lewis, who died at the age of 80. Days later, we remembered the July 20, 1969 landing on the moon by the late Neil Armstrong, the first person in the world to ever walk on another planet.
The accomplishments of Lewis and Armstrong, although different in nature, will be etched and acknowledged in the annals of American history for hundreds of years to come. Moreover, there is a lot about these two men, what they represent, and who they inspired that speaks to the best of what America has to offer.
Starting with John Lewis, it is difficult to comprehend the imprint he left on the direction of America’s respect for civil liberties. The man who marched alongside Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was one of the original Freedom Riders, gave an address at the March on Washington, and helped lead a historic demonstration that became known as “Bloody Sunday.” The net result of his tireless advocacy was, in part, meaningful civil rights legislation that has defined freedoms for people of color in America for decades.
While John Lewis was growing up, the son of sharecroppers, his parents told him to “stay out of trouble” and accept the segregated society for what it was. Lewis resisted and participated in what he called “good trouble.” John Lewis went on to serve as a congressman until the day he died. He was an innovator and boldly challenged the status quo.
Neil Armstrong was an astronaut who landed on the moon 51 years ago with fellow astronaut Buzz Aldrin. Armstrong was an innovator as an engineer and trailblazer for space exploration and an accomplished Navy pilot in the Korean War. Armstrong went on to become one of the leading members of NASA’s astronaut program.
The same resolve Armstrong showed as a pilot during the war was exemplified in his time as an astronaut. In 1966, Armstrong’s Gemini VIII mission, his first with NASA, helped him reach the earth’s orbit where he docked a space capsule. Three years later, he became the pilot of the lunar module that landed on the moon’s surface: “That’s one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind,” Armstrong exclaimed when he became the first man to step on the moon!
Both Armstrong and Lewis lived storied lives that greatly advanced American society forward, starting in the 1960s. Their bravery was unmatched, and their purpose and mission-driven ideas and attitudes were always exemplified through their work.
What is perhaps even more impressive is the lasting legacies of Armstrong’s and Lewis’ accomplishments. Armstrong paved the way for space exploration that now may see a man reach Mars in the coming years! As our nation continues to grapple with civil rights, the voice and example of John Lewis’ unifying message become even more important to heed.
We remember these two men for what they did as it shapes our future still today.
What do you find most inspirational about the lives of John Lewis and Neil Armstrong? What are your memories of these men and/or their accomplishments?
© Tyra Manning 2020