President Obama’s last day in office will be on January 20th, 2017.
For all his successes and failures as the “Leader of the Free World”, I can’t help but feel a sense of missed opportunity.
As an outsider, I see a nation divided. Social media posts on the Presidential race all appear to be followed by a long string of hateful comments from both sides of the aisle. The road to the White House has, in my opinion, done irreparable damage to America’s reputation with down and dirty campaigns on both sides that are farcical to those watching from the sidelines.
The historic about-turn in foreign policy toward Cuba instigated by Pope Francis might ordinarily have been an event that unites a nation, but partisanal divide conquered the fact that a majority of Americans supported the move. An opposition party's role is not to criticise government on every single policy decision, but that is what we have seen this last 7 years. Well that is how it looks to the rest of the World. Remember the fall of the Berlin Wall? - Party on the streets, families reunited. But the normalising of U.S. / Cuban has prompted a muted response from a nation that can’t quite figure out what to make of it.
On May 25th, 1961 President John F. Kennedy announced his goal of putting a man on the moon by the end of the decade. Kennedy did not get to witness the moon landing just 8 years later, but the images were beamed around the World in possibly the greatest public relations event in history. For that one moment in time, humanity was united.
When Obama was elected 44th President of the United States, the World was filled with hope. As an articulate and eloquent speaker, I was eagerly waiting for his “Man on Mars” speech, and he could easily have delivered it. It could well have been a “high speed train network” speech or whatever.
In August of 2008, Obama signed off on a seven page space plan where he “endorses the goal of human missions to the Moon by 2020”. In April 2010 Obama announced his space policy at the Kennedy Space Center. He predicted a U.S. crewed orbital mission to Mars by 2030. So was it NASA that advised him that this is what was realistic? Most likely, but I can’t help but feeling that if he announced a “Humans on Mars by 2020” it could have been done. If 2030 is the goal, well it is possible the Chinese will get there first.
To the rescue
An immigrant from South Africa just announced that his 2002 startup, SpaceX, plans to land an unmanned spacecraft on Mars as early as 2018 – Mission “Red Dragon”. Although this appears to be a collaborative effort with NASA, the U.S. seems to be missing out on another potentially historic public relations opportunity. A successful mission would thrust Elon Musk into the history books as possibly the greatest innovator in the history of mankind. This is a collaborative effort and a precursor to further collaboration on a human mission to Mars by 2030. But where is the president in all this?
I can’t help but reflect that had Obama made a “Humans on Mars” type speech back in 2008, the country might well be glued to the TV screens watching the event unfold right now, a nation united and respected the World over.
Dean Owen is Co-Founder of Quimojo, a revolutionary new concept in Global Campus Recruitment
Photo Credit: AP/Dreamstime"
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