During the recent spell of rain and cold, I read Rick Atkinson’s An Army at Dawn. It is an incredibly well written book and I will definitely read the next two volumes in his Liberation Trilogy. In reading Volume One, one is moved by the heroism of everyday men and women, the brilliance of Allied leaders, and suffering that war brings to both the victory and the vanquished. Atkinson does not gloss over the stupidity, egotism and incompetency of more than a few Allied leaders that resulted in the unneeded deaths of too many young soldiers and sailors. As I read, I could not help but thinking what an astonishing time it must have been to be alive.
My daughter was kind enough to remind me that we are living incredible lives in rather astonishing times today. To understanding this, you just need to pause, look around and tally your own experiences. Let me share with you some of the things that have happened in my short life span and invite you to do the same with yours.
I grew up with space travel as the stuff of science fiction. In my life I have seen the first man in space, the first woman in space, men walk on the moon, the first steps toward commercial space travel, probes reporting back from beyond the solar system, and an international space station that has been continuously occupied since 2000 with visitors from 15 different nations. What was once science fiction is now so much a part of normal life that media outlets seldom report space news.
I was born into an American society where racial segregation was the law of the land. We still suffer the social and cultural effects of America’s history of slavery and Jim Crow. Still, imagine if you could go back to 1965 and tell the people on the Selma Bridge that Rosa Parks and Martin Luther King would become American icons, that Dr. King would be celebrated with a national holiday and that a Black man would become President of the United States in the very near future. Do you think anyone would have believed you?
Neither a woman nor a person of color had held the position of US Secretary of State between 1776 and 1996. If someone told you in 1996 that either one or the other would hold the post for the next 16 years would you have believed them? There are so many other advances, events and inventions that could be mentioned: the Internet; smart phones more powerful than the computers that sent men to the moon; the end of the USSR; freedom for Mandela; and, more and more that amazes.
We live in remarkable times. You live an astonishing life by any measure. Enjoy it and know that someday people will read books about your era and wish that they could have lived during such incredible times.