Georgia Says

The Times, Gainesville, Ga. on Scott Carpenter, an American original:

An American original passed away last week, a man who was a household name for a generation raised in an era when outer space was brought closer to earth and anything seemed possible.

Scott Carpenter, one of NASA's original Mercury 7 astronauts, died Oct. 10 at age 88. He was the fourth American in space and second to orbit the globe after John Glenn, who at 92 is the only surviving member of the group that included Gordon Cooper, Gus Grissom, Wally Schirra, Alan Shepard and Deke Slayton.

Those who read the book or saw the movie "The Right Stuff" know the story of a handful of gutsy, daredevil test pilots who willingly became America's first guinea pigs in the space race with the Russians. They were "Spam in a can" with no assurances of survival amid the breakneck advancements that hurtled them into the heavens. And in the case of Grissom and many others since, lives were indeed lost in the effort.

It was a remarkable time in which a charismatic president welcomed a new era of modern marvels by promising to reach the moon within a decade, a bold challenge considering we had only begun to create the intricate technological systems needed for such a mission. The sound barrier had been broken only 15 years earlier, and the Soviets had beaten us into space with their Sputnik satellite a decade after that.

Yet our nation embraced such endeavors, from space travel to self-cleaning ovens, with an eye toward the future. ...

Fast-forward to today. We now see our nation locked in a death grip of political gridlock, unable to join hands on any issue, much less venture to new worlds. There is no rallying point like the space program to bring us together; our arguments these days are over earth-bound concerns like budgets, health insurance and life's other necessities. Even then, we have few leaders with the vision to conquer new frontiers, mostly self-serving ideologues eyeballing polls and the next election rather than the cosmos.

If the space program was a validation of what we can do as a nation when the people and their leaders unite behind a common goal, today's standoff in Washington reflects the opposite end of that spectrum. ...

Godspeed to Astronaut Carpenter and his Mercury pioneers who went before him. They embodied the best of us then, and their brand of courage and daring would be a welcome antidote to our present-day torpor.

In fact, a little more of the "right stuff" these days might just be the cure for what ails us.

The Savannah (Ga.) Morning News on an unfortunate civic lesson in D.C.:

A common scene in Washington, D.C., is the loading and unloading of hundreds — and sometimes thousands — of school children from yellow buses lined up along the mall that stretches from the Lincoln Memorial to the Capitol.

They arrive from points all across the United States to visit the memorials on and around the mall, to tour the Capitol, to spend hours in the various parts of the Smithsonian Museums and to get a feeling for the nation's history.

A group of Jackson County, Ga., students got a different lesson recently when their visit came during the government shutdown now in its 15th day.

Instead of working their way around the World War II memorial to be exposed to the European and Pacific campaigns of that war, the students were exposed to veterans of that war protesting the fact it was closed.

The veterans' actions, of course, are a product of free speech and provided a direct civics lesson for the young Georgians. Still, there's something unsettling about men in their 80s and 90s, members of “the greatest generation,” having to protest the closing of the memorial that honors their bravery and the sacrifices they and thousands of others made.

But that was just the beginning for the students.

From the memoriam for World War II, they walked over to the Lincoln Memorial where protesters were tearing down barricades that blocked access to the memorial. ...

Student Hayden Dutton said closing the memorials is insulting.

"It's disrespectful to the families that had someone die in the war to shut down the memorials," Dutton said.

Dutton said he thinks removing the barriers at the Lincoln Memorial made a strong statement. ...

The unfortunate element is they had to learn those lessons because the individuals who populate Congress and the White House have not shown the leadership necessary to keep a government functioning and, potentially, from defaulting on its debt.

Perhaps they should spend some time with 50 school children from Georgia.

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