Human Exploration – Our Future and a Tribute to Apollo 11

“Twenty seconds and counting. T minus 15 seconds, guidance is internal. Twelve, 11, 10, 9, ignition sequence starts. 6, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1, 0, all engine running, liftoff. We have a liftoff, 32 minutes past the hour. Liftoff on Apollo 11.”

It has been fifty years – July 1969 – since Apollo 11 lifted off from Florida to not only visit the Moon but to land on it and became the first inhabitants of the human race to step foot on the Moon and into the ledgers of history. Fifty years ago, Neil Armstrong, “Buzz” Aldrin and Michael Collins departed the comforts of the land we call Earth and rocketed through grips of the atmosphere, strapped to the top of a Saturn V rocket. Armstrong and Aldrin became the first members of the human race to set foot upon our moon and to collect artifacts from the lunar surface that provided the true treasure provided by the trip – educational knowledge. Yes, a lunar landing was a political goal as well, but it accomplished so much more than that. It’s incredible when you stop and think about it. This great feat of human achievement was brought about by advances in technology, the hard work of the human mind and a dream that was based partly in the goal of advancing civilization through educational knowledge.

Lately, I have noticed an uptick of programming concentrated around our past lunar activity. Some have not realized this milestone anniversary coming up. And there are, of course, those who were glued to their TV screens, when a soft-spoken yet accomplished astronaut/engineer named Neil Armstrong stepped off of the LEM and onto the surface of the Moon.

Many found it ironic that Armstrong was the one to make history, yet fitting as well. Armstrong was certainly more than accomplished but seen as a serious man who was drawn more to the engineering and piloting aspects of being an astronaut than the hype that such an explorer tended to carry.

Why do I mention this? In a time where we see hard times are seeing both good times and bad times of the human condition here on Earth, there are many who question the worth of further human exploration. “We have enough issues here!”, some say. True – point taken. In addition to all of the good stories of human accomplishment that we bear witness to, we also bear witness to a great number of tragedies that come from a society made up of imperfect beings – war, food insecurity, poverty, crime and health epidemics to name a few.

However, that is not a reason to halt the advancement of civilization. Human civilization has always gone forward based on the advances of human achievement, accomplished through some mode of exploration. At one time in history, farming was an unknown frontier to be explored. So too were the seas that had yet to be sailed upon and the lands that were unknown to human eyes. Yes, even the skies were once an unknown world. Yet, we – the human race – explored them and found out what the fish saw in the waters and what the birds saw in the skies. We relied upon our intuitive skills and our technology on hand to gain the greatest treasure of all – educational knowledge. This knowledge was then used to make the human condition better and advance civilization forward. How can we stop this now? Are we to let the sadness of imperfections rule our future kingdoms? How do we keep advancing should we stop? No. We must continue exploring – whether that be more of the skies, space and ocean waters to other elements of this world that we are only just discovering. That is how we survive and sustain the human race and civilization.

The second reason I mention the Apollo 11 mission is in regards to the human element. There were those who questioned why mankind was doing this at all. Remember this – human accomplishment is nothing without the people who do the work. Those who have achieved much in this world and who have “made history” have been people, just like you and I. These people made a difference. So can you and I. We have many new frontiers before us, some known and some unknown. One of our new frontiers is continuing to gain educational knowledge with the aid of technology, whether that be in training others in a classroom, in a lab or by exploring in the field. The one common factor is that this work will be done by humans, whether by our hands our programmed into some form of artificial intelligence.

I make this point and this reference to a historical milestone that occurred 50 years ago for this reason – we are all capable of accomplishing something and leaving a mark in history. Whether it be in your family, by serving on a town/city committee or serving in some other capacity, we all have the ability to make a difference, just as the crew members and members of Mission Control did on the historic exploration feat that occurred 50 years ago this July.

No matter what you do in this life, do it well. Make a difference. Be the difference.

Serving Your Community – A Higher Calling

Making a difference. Many times, it may seem that making a large difference upon the world around us is meant for other people – people more gifted than us – but most certainly not us. How wrong we are should we allow our thoughts to be shaped in that manner. We can all make a difference if we try. President John F. Kennedy once stated, “One person can make a difference, and everyone should try.”

This statement is true. We all can be destined to make a difference, no matter how small that difference may seem. Many of us carry the titles of family member, citizen, brother, sister, mother, father, son, daughter. Just by existing in this role, as long as we are trying to live a good and decent life, we are making a difference. How else can we make a difference? The answer is surprisingly simple. In our community. Be a force of good in your community. Communities are bonded and made up of people, the same as you and I. Volunteer for a committee, express interest in being appointed to a tow or city board. Run for a municipal office. To make a difference in regard to the society in which you live in and to impact policy relating to the community that you call home, you do not need to be an orator, a mighty crusader or a larger than life figure. You can be yourself and represent your community.

I know of many people who have done this in my community and in the surrounding towns where I live. These people inspire me and drive me to be better. These people impact the world, even if only in a seemingly small world. However, what may seem small and insignificant to one person may mean the world to another. I know that in my own experience, serving the public in the role of serving in town government is one way that I try to make a difference.

When I graduated from Graduate School in 2013, I felt compelled to give back to the community that had raised me. Perhaps it was the fact that I had just earned a Masters in Public Policy and Administration. Perhaps I felt the call of a higher calling. I knew that I was not going to go to Washington D.C. and make a difference. I knew that my public policy path would not lead me to being the next Kennedy or Bush and that my words would not leave a mark on society like Martin Luther King Jr. or any other great figure in history. Rather, my path was going to be distant. My path was going to follow that of my fellow towns-people in Hadley, the local storekeeper or farmer who stood up and delivered on what they believed was right and stood for the residents of the communities that they call home.

My conviction that I could make a difference in this world, no matter how small, by participating in my community, led me to some unique opportunities that I am proud of. From 2012 on, yes – this started prior to my Graduate school graduation, I have served the town of Hadley, MA in a few different roles.

From 2012-2016, I served the Hadley Park and Recreation Department as the Instructional Youth Sport Coordinator/Head Coach for T-Ball, Soccer and Basketball. The Athletic Coaching Manual that can be found on this website here is part of that legacy. That website is Matt Kushi’s Athletic Coaching Lessons at www.mattkushicoaching.com. This was a project started during my time at Hadley Park and Recreation and continues to this day, perhaps in a future role within that department.

In 2013/2014, I served on the Hopkins Academy 350th Anniversary Committee, helping celebrate Hadley’s public high school – and my high school alma mater – celebrate a milestone anniversary and promote the value of an education.

From 2014 to the present day, I have served on the Hadley Agricultural Commission.  Currently, I am the Chair of the Commission. This Commission has been a piece of work that I am extraordinarily proud of, given Hadley’s agricultural status. When I first joined, I did not realize that the Commission had been dormant for 10 years. I was quickly named the Chair and the past few years have been spent making the Commission active and bringing it back from the dead. I am proud to announce that we have completed such initiatives such as taking part in a regional Agricultural Commission educational workshop and that we are currently working on other initiatives and education opportunities, such as promoting the Right To Farm Bylaw and helping support local agricultural events.

Have I helped make difference? I would like to think so. Occasionally, I will get stopped in town and asked about Hopkins Academy or agricultural matters in town. To some, I am still known as Coach Matt from Hadley Park and Recreation. Have the committees I have worked with made a difference? Yes. Taking part in the workings of our community, whether volunteer, appointed or elected, allows you to serve your community and make a difference in your community, one life at a time.

 Robert F. Kennedy once said, “Few will have the greatness to bend history itself, but each of us can work to change a small portion of events, and in the total of all those acts will be written the history of this generation.” If you want to make a difference in the lives of others, no man nor woman is too small for the task. Every person can make a difference – it is just a matter of believing that you can and making the effort. If you want to make a difference in your community, always remember that you can serve your community in many ways. My story reminds of me this. My friend’s story and experiences remind me of this.  You can make a difference. You will make a difference.