50 years ago, the Soviets launched Sputnik and kicked the space race into high gear.
While that's distant history now, that era left behind quite a legacy. America gained a significant edge in engineering and the sciences in the 1960s and 1970s. We have Velcro and Tang. A generation of youth inspired during the moon shot era have gone on to Silicon Valley and Seattle to create the world’s biggest technology-driven companies…and many of those individuals now are raising an interesting question of whether there’s been anything anywhere near that motivating to encourage the current generation of youth to dream as big as they were allowed to do during the Apollo days.
While there may not be anything on the scale of the space race giving so many kids the license to think so boldly, there is still something that is keeping that kind of dreaming alive.
My six-year-old son may be the biggest space nut on this planet. As I think back to where in the world he picked that up (I happened to struggle in my college astronomy class), I realize that the spark probably happened during a visit to the National Air & Space Museum when he was four, finally moving him beyond his policeman obsession.
Fast forward two years later, after his space obsession unfolds: One morning, my six-year-old asked me if he could go to the John F. Kennedy Library and Museum to watch video of the president delivering his speeches about committing to get a man to the moon and back by the end of the decade. That came out of the blue since I hadn’t discussed the museum with him before. So I called the museum to ask if they have an exhibit showing that video, and the person on the phone said they had a segment as a portion of a small display, but suggested that we get in touch with their library. So I spoke with the librarian, and he said that he’d make arrangements with the archive department.
So we showed up, and the librarian said with a quizzical look, “I wasn’t expecting him to be so young. I thought he’d be in high school.” Then he called the archivists to alert them that we were on our way, and told them, “He’s coming, and he’s a bit smaller than you’re expecting.”
The archivists couldn’t have been nicer. They had the two JFK speeches ready to view. While my son was totally engrossed by the speeches, the archive staff members were peeking around the corner, curious about the six-year-old who was digging into their archives. They left him with a parting gift of the two speeches on a CD, and two photos of JFK meeting John Glenn after he returned to earth as the first American in orbit. My son walked out thinking that the JFK Museum was the coolest place on earth. And today, he asked to return.
Long story for a short point: While the government isn’t necessarily doing anything like they did in the 60s with NASA, there’s still something out there that can light that kind of a spark in kids’ lives. Museums.
Figure out what you do that can be truly transformative, make sure your staff understands how their touchpoints can make that difference, and go out and do it.
(And if you're already doing it, please click on the comments button below and share the word!)