13 October 2012



I know that the Proverb quoted is about something entirely different, but the words are fit. It complements Turner’s theses.

 Without a frontier, a national challenge, a vision that all can strive for, a nation tends to stagnate and ultimately wither. The “what’s in it for me” mentality infects and divides and ultimately kills a nation. We have that today in the class warfare arguments being propounded by politicians who need to agitate a constituency in order to motivate them to vote for the agitators.

Why? Because that is all they have to offer.

I submit that the politician, the candidate, with the political courage, boldness, and will to challenge the American people—as one people—to do some great thing, to approach and conquer some new frontier, will find that he or she will have to stand back out of the way as the people respond.

Whatever it is, it needs to be big and to involve the kinds of people who conquered the frontiers of the 19th and 20th Centuries. Now, you may well ask, “Who are those people? Do we have any of them left?”

Well, they are loners who hanker to see the unknown, entrepreneurs who seek raw materials and then markets for the goods they produce, pioneers who want a chance to start something new, settlers who yearn to build new societies, risk takers all. And I suspect we will be surprised at how many of them there are.

The science fiction fan in me wishes the challenge could be to colonize Mars, but the fact of the matter is that that is a project that must wait. The late, lamented series Terra Nova posited time travel back 65 million years to a frontier not unlike the American west in the 18th and 19th Centuries—if you ignore the dinosaurs—but time travel does not exist. The frontier we need must be, as was the 19th Century frontier, accessible to many and fairly expeditiously.

So, where do we have raw materials, potential treasure, land, and a source of sustenance for the people who travel to the new frontier? I would like to hear a candidate say
My fellow Americans: Flowing in the veins of the American people is the blood of ancestors who were dreamers and pioneers and builders—people who came to a raw, untamed continent and, in the space of less than three short centuries, turned it into a nation that was, and still is, the envy of the world. People in other nations still take monumental risks to get here.
History has shown that when the American people unite with a common will to accomplish a common goal, they can do wonderful things. But a nation needs frontiers to challenge its people. The lack of a frontier, of a challenge worthy of the American people, threatens to sap us of that which made us great and good.

Just over 50 years ago, President Kennedy challenged America to do the impossible— to commit itself to achieving the goal, in less than ten years, of landing a man on the moon and returning him safely to the earth. The American people responded. Although at the time of President Kennedy’s speech, our technology was nowhere near ready to accomplish that task, new industries were created, new technologies were developed, and the task was accomplished in eight years!

And that challenge benefited us all. Advances in technology resulted in computers that we can fit into the palms of our hands, materials that are lighter, stronger, and more useful than wood and iron and steel, and communications that allow a doctor in the deepest part of the third world to instantly consult with colleagues in the great teaching hospitals of this country. For a quarter of a century, President Kennedy’s great vision inspired us and changed the face of the world.

Now it is time to take longer strides--time for a great new American enterprise--time for this nation to take a clearly leading role in another achievement, which in many ways may hold the key to our future on earth. I believe we possess all the resources and talents necessary. But the facts of the matter are that since the heady days after President Kennedy’s challenge, we have never again made the national decisions or marshaled the national resources required for such leadership. We have never again specified long-range goals on an urgent time schedule, or managed our resources and our time so as to insure their fulfillment. It is time to do so again!

Accordingly, I believe that this nation should commit itself to achieving the goal, before 2050, of establishing not less than 50 self-sustaining communities on the world’s seabeds, each capable of supporting not less than 10,000 men, women and children.

No single project in this period will be more impressive to the world at large, or more important for the long-range exploration of the last unexplored area of this planet; and none will be so difficult or expensive to accomplish. I believe, however, that once started, this project will lead to international cooperation so that in 100 years, on the 150th anniversary of President Kennedy’s challenge, millions of people will be mining, farming, and harvesting the vast untapped area now covered by the sea.

It will not be an easy task, but tasks worthy of accomplishment rarely are. It will be dangerous, but no more dangerous than traveling by horse-drawn wagon or on foot across the prairies, mountains, and deserts of the west were in 1850. People from around the world will, I believe, actively and anxiously seek to conquer this newest of frontiers.

To accomplish this goal will demand an unprecedented national commitment of scientific and technical manpower, materiel and facilities, and the possibility of their diversion from other important activities where they are already thinly spread.  It means a degree of dedication, organization and discipline which have not always characterized our research and development efforts.

But looking at the lessons of America’s leadership in making the first real conquests of space, and the advancements for all men that resulted from that venture, I am confident that our people can and will be equal to the task.

We need frontiers. We need to have another hill to cross in order to see what is on the other side, to do the impossible, and to reap, for all mankind, the fruits that result from such adventures.

That is my vision. I ask for your vote on November 6, so that we, the American people can join hands to march bravely—together and as one people—into another new frontier.


Unknown said...

I was in Vietnam when Armstrong took the giant leap for Mankind, and in a divided Germany when Kennedy's successors pissed it all away for the Great Society. I will be astounded if any current politician has the guts and gumption to articulate any vision that had the possibilities of Kennedy's.

Mac said...

I was in Vietnam at the same time. Welcome home, brother. Who were you with?