I believe JFK is the other hero of the Apollo 11 mission. Here's why ...
50 years ago to this day, I was sitting on my father George's knee, looking up at the glowing moon. He steadied the huge and heavy Yashica binoculars for me, focussing on the cratered lunar surface, as I convinced myself I could actually see Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin walking on the moon.
All the attention on this anniversary of Apollo 11 is on those three ultra-brave men who went to the moon and back. But I'd like to zoom out and applaud something that happened eight years earlier ...
Because for me, the other real hero of this story is President JFK, the architect of the vision who made the Apollo missions possible. (Those who know me, know it's not often I applaud politicians.)
His speech to congress on May 25 1961 galvanized a nation. Lit the fires of innovation. And sparked the imagination in a generation of kids.
The most rousing part was this:
"I believe that this nation should commit itself to achieving the goal, before this decade is out, of landing a man on the moon and returning him safely to the Earth. No single space project in this period will be more impressive to mankind, or more important for the long-range exploration of space; and none will be so difficult or expensive to accomplish."
As a piece of leadership rhetoric -- equally applicable to YOU as a creative leader -- it is sublime for several compelling reasons:
1. Use of the phrase "I believe" tells you his personal world view, and makes it deeply personal.
2. He's set us all a collective goal. Not just for the NASA boffins and a few propellor-heads. This is ALL OF US together against those pesky competitive cosmonauts.
3. The humanisation of not just landing technology on the moon, but "a man" who may or may not make it safely back home to his family a few days later. Now he's thrown a vulnerability into this mission - success is not a certainty. How must the astronaut feel? How must his wife and children feel? Now we're fully emotionally invested in this.
4. "Impressive to mankind" imparts huge universal prestige and importance to this mission for generations beyond.
5. "None will be so difficult or expensive to accomplish" justifies any amount of budget being thrown at this exercise because it's now become a matter of national pride and human safety, deflecting our attention away from the multiple millions being funnelled into this program. Plus he's reinforced the challenge, the obstacle so essential to a page-turning "how is this going to end?" storyline.
6. Plus, importantly, a deadline invokes a sense of urgency to make this vision a reality. "Before this decade is out." So we all know how much time we've got. The clock is ticking. Get on with it.
I'd encourage you grab your tea or coffee now, view the video of the man in action delivering his speech, or read the full speech text, and understand its brilliance in the context of the times.
And see how you can align your team behind you on the important mission that you and they are currently on by creating and articulating a compelling vision that they are dying to be part of. Give it a fizzing sense of something that rises well above business as usual, otherwise that's how it will be treated.
See if you can make it a speech for the ages. Give us something that we might be talking about in 5, 10, or even 50 years from now.
Tip: start with "I believe ..." and go from there.