I believe that America is the greatest nation on Earth. I don’t mean that in some cheesy, obligatorily patriotic way; I mean that through the successful implementation of enlightenment ideals, the free-market system and the record of achievements both technological and otherwise, America is the best. I’m sorry if that offends the rest of the world, and I’m sorry if that doesn’t jibe with self-loathing liberals. Nobody has offered the world more than America, and I’ll never be ashamed to admit that fact.
A small part of what has made America so great is the pioneering spirit. The story of America is the story of pushing the boundaries of what we once thought was impossible. 65 years ago yesterday, Chuck Yeager strapped himself into a seat on top of what was, essentially, a rocket and broke the sound barrier. The first flight had only occurred 44 years prior. That is the American spirit.
In our age of cushy, heated car seats and convenient smartphones, we sometimes forget the harsh realities of the world. The greatest generation fought the Nazis and the Japanese, then came home and spent the next forty years worrying about the Soviet Union. America stood as the ultimate vanguard against Soviet aggression, and being that vanguard meant that we always had to be one step ahead. As we reached the jet age of aeronautics, we needed to push the boundaries more and more, go faster and faster. That’s where the Chuck Yeagers, Alan Shepards, Gus Grissoms and John Glenns came in to play.
Being a test pilot took a kind of iron-willed resolve. After all, the technologies these men were testing were not predicated upon decades of tried-and-true methods- these technologies were exciting, brand new concepts, and that made them all the more dangerous.
Two days before his famous flight, Yeager broke two ribs in a horseback riding accident. Afraid he would be taken off the mission, he refused to be treated for it, but instead saw a veterinarian in another town. Having sufficiently given new meaning to “playing through the pain,” Yeager climbed into his Bell X-1, named “Glamorous Glennis” after his wife, and achieved Mach 1 at exactly 10:24 AM, October 14th, 1947.
Having achieved such a feat in a top-secret program, Yeager could not brag about his achievement. Instead, the personal glory of knowing that he had travelled faster than any man before coupled with the pride in having helped his country innovate and usher in the “jet age” of aeronautics swelled the fearless pilot with pride.
Yesterday, exactly 65 years to the minute after his historic flight, Mr. Yeager, in an F-15, broke the sound barrier again, giving us all a reminder that it is never too late to achieve.
Chuck Yeager’s flight was one of a million phenomenal achievements of the 20th century. Within the span of 66 years, mankind saw an airplane take off in a field in North Carolina, a man break the speed of sound and a man walk on the moon. We take achievements for granted these days, wondering when the next iPhone will come out, seldom marveling at the colossal achievements that occurred that produced the technological innovations we accept as continually evolving. We have become desensitized to wonder of achievement, and we seem to always ask, “What’s next?” We must take time to remember the efforts and sacrifices of great Americans, and recall that today’s achievements are built upon the pillars of yesteryear’s feats.
With all the anti-American sentiment both at home and abroad, it is important to set the record straight; America is not, nor has ever been, perfect. But dammit, it has bred some of the greatest innovations and innovators the world has ever known and no country has done more to advance the human race than our pantheon of thinkers, doers and dreamers.