Going Boldly - Coaching, Scouting, Space Exploration

It's the morning after the super bowl, and I just looped through the company canteen, where our football fans were talking about yesterday's game.  Our take away: Great coaching and leadership. The Saint's coaches took some bold intelligent risks - and in our Monday-Morning analysis, the leadership made the difference. Congratulations New Orleans Saints.  And congratulations NFL - it was a great BOLD football game. Two other events that are important for Monday, February 08, 2010:

  1. The Boy Scouts of America celebrate their 100th birthday today.
  2. NASA launched the Space Shuttle for the last time at night. It's payload: the last major piece of the international space station.

Living in South-West Florida,  I had not witnessed a night-time launch, so I set my alarm to 3:45am. Upon waking I logged onto the internet and checked the weather for visibility and NASA for launch progress. Everything looked AOK, so I hopped into my car and drove east towards the Everglades.

Monitoring a radio station that was covering the launch, I drove until T-minus 60 seconds, pulled over, oriented my compass to a heading of 20 degrees, and waited.

The announcer called the lift off, and 45 seconds into the flight, I saw a red beacon burning on the horizon. The tight bright ball  stretched into a road-flare flame that arced up into the morning sky.

Standing along the roadside, I watch the booster's blaze for 6 minutes. When the engines glow became the same intensity as the stars, I slid back into the car, and with a deep melancholy I drove back home.

I believe I sit here at this office desk, as the CEO of a software company, typing on a keyboard connected to two large monitors, powered by an  Intel 2.4 GHz Dual-Core CPU with  3.48 GB of RAM workstation,  because of this nation's commitment to space exploration.  The need for computer hardware and software to manage the Apollo moon missions coupled with the need to provide those tools with the minimum weight, accelerated the miniaturization of integrated circuits that lead directly to the development of the personal computer.

I also believe I sit here partially because of my childhood desire  to be an astronaut. I wanted to go to space and explore. As a 1st grader, I drew rockets and flight orbits to the moon. As a 2nd grader, I built and launched model rockets. As a 3rd grader, I wore out our families volume "S" of the encyclopedia, because I memorize the entire "S"pace section. I recall childhood dreams where I built my own rocket and flew into space.

That flame burned on, though out my primary education - building, designing and flying models, accumulating with a private pilot's license at age 16.

I grew up believing that I could accomplish anything I set my sights on. I believe the whole generation of Bill Gate's and Larry Ellison's grew up with the same spirit infused within them. For me our nation's space program is not just about the technological spin-offs - that is the easy and obvious selling point. What the real value of  space exploration is the sense of purpose and mission it gives our culture.

The Space Program was our generation's Lewis and Clark expedition. It opened up our minds and pointed us toward a new frontier to explorer.

Last week our President announced he intended to make budget cuts to our space program, which if approved by Congress, cancels our return to the Moon and I believe will halt our efforts for a manned mission to Mars.

Our current leader does not exhibit a will to explore space.  Perhaps in the future,  a national leader will appear that will make the BOLD decision that our culture needs manned space exploration.

As an Assistant Scout Master in Troop 38 in Naples, Florida,  we just promoted a Eagle Scout. It was a extremely proud ceremony for our Troop. The young man's name is Kevin Usher - I have great hopes for his promising future. We have two more young men that are getting close to Eagle,  and another young man right behind them. During every meeting and every camp out we teach scouts the skills to lead and make decisions.  Scouting in its heart is about making a young man a competent outdoorsman, which gives him confidence, and -- ultimately -- leadership abilities.

At 51 years of age, my dream to  be an astronaut will not be fulfilled - but I have a new dream. Here on the 100th anniversary of Scouting in America, I dream that within the ranks of the Scouting there is a young man or young woman, that will someday make that decision to continue our exploration into space.

I know they will be prepared to make the BOLD decision.