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[i]Ok, I think I can die now. I have spent a day with a guy who's been my hero all my life. Full disclosure. I am fully biased. I think Gene Cernan is among the best of the best. The last man to walk on the moon giving me unprecedented access to his world. A world rich in heroes, and achievements, fighter planes, and rockets. A bygone era from a generation that never knew the word "can't."
I was still a boy when I watched Cernan having the time of his life on the moon... in that last visit by human beings to the moon. Even as a kid, I could see the kid in Gene... A guy who didn't see his time up there as a "mission," but a "passion." And one... that even drove he and colleague Harrison Schmitt... to song. I said Gene was a hero. I never said he was a singer.
I joked yesterday with Gene, as I have so often shared with many of you on this show... how much I wanted to be an astronaut when I was a kid. I did, I really did. I mean, I was a nut about it. When other kids my age were collecting baseball cards, I was collecting astronaut autographs. And reading everything I could get on every mission I could follow. I had Gemini models, and Apollo models, lunar modules. Command modules. I'd pretend in my room, I was in a rocket in outer space. Frankly, it worried my mom and dad.
But lo and behold it got them to do something that would forever change my life. Take me to Cape Canaveral itself. That's when it hit me like a rocket booster to the kisser. After looking at all those capsules, I realized something. I was too fat to fit in them. So I gave up on being an astronaut, and moved down the career alphabet to "anchor." Yes, I know, the world is a better place as a result... But it took me years to get over that cold caloric reality after that trip. But it never dampened one bit my enthusiasm for space. Or my admiration for those who risked all and some who gave all, to be in space. A president who boldly staked out a new frontier. And able and willing heroes who saw the value of America leading that frontier.
Some say guys like Gene are throwaways to another era. Sadly, they're right. But dismissing the passion of these guys, who embodied the right stuff, is wrong. They made this country great. And they're worried about this country now. Take it from the last guy to walk on the moon. His DNA still exists in all of us... right now. To discover. To lead. To wonder. To be... wondrous.
I never became an astronaut... but I think I'm still wired to see the wonderful. That's why Gene's a hero. I had to move on. Gene... refuses to. We could do worse than heed the warnings of a hero. Take a look around... We already are. Thank you, Gene. Thank you very much.[/i]
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