Neil Tyson: “We stopped dreaming.”

I’m old enough to remember watching the 1969 Apollo 11 moon landing. I turned 5 that summer, but I have a clear memory of the black and white, static strewn footage of Armstrong and Aldrin bouncing around the moon’s surface. I remained fascinated and inspired by NASA throughout my childhood. I was going to be an astronaut. I did plenty of school reports about the space program. I knew it was important and cool. The best prizes in cereal boxes were related to NASA. I drank Tang and ate snacks in tubes just like the astronauts. My ambition, however, faded along with my interest in science and math in high school. Our nation’s romance with NASA started waning once we stopped going to the moon. The space shuttle brought some excitement back, but not for long.

Neil deGrasse Tyson is the cool college professor you wish you had as a teacher. He’s the Carl Sagan of our time, poetically proclaiming the beauty of science and the wonders of the universe while passionately calling on us to do better in supporting exploration and research. Check out this powerful video calling for more funding for NASA:

And then watch this “Most astounding fact” montage:

Tyson is a compelling and effective communicator. You can tell just by the power and emotion in his voice that he genuinely cares. Anyone interested in presentation dynamics could learn a lot watching Tyson in action in front of an audience. He speaks engagingly with authenticity and a powerful sense of presence. His passion is contagious. He has inspired me. I have come back only recently to a renewed appreciation of scientific discovery. I wish I had taken science more seriously as a college student, and I’m trying to fill in the gaps in my education now.

One of our primary jobs as humans is to reclaim a little more land in this sea of “infinite inexplicability” that surrounds us. Pushing the boundaries of knowledge and better understanding our place in the universe is a noble calling. However, there is a disconcertingly high level of antipathy towards science today, even among nations with well educated populations. What if the story of our generation was that we tipped the balance for our species? That we were the ultimate explorers, leading humanity finally and unequivocally on the never-ending quest for understanding and reason? What if our nation once again set audacious goals for space exploration and scientific discovery in general, goals that got kids interested enough to dream big and point themselves toward the stars once more?

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