Reporter's Note: The president went to the tornado zone in Alabama, and to NASA in Florida. So my letter, once again, is going to the Oval Office.
Dear Mr. President,
It was good to see you on the ground there in Alabama today. Not sure if you had a chance to read yesterday’s letter, but I noticed that you (as I suggested) focused a good bit on encouraging local officials in their long struggle ahead. Good for you.
I continue to be awed and depressed by the scope of the damage there and in other states, even as I know that Southerners are tough folks who will dig themselves out, build up again, and move on despite their sorrows. Still, it was good of you to stop by.
As for Florida: Sorry that the space shuttle did not lift off for you, but glad you made it down there, too.
That said, I am a little conflicted when I see you cooling out with the astronauts. On one hand, I know that a presidential visit always attracts attention to any agency or cause, and spurs public interest in what that group is doing. On the other hand, I’m not convinced that you are much of a friend to the space program.
You seem fond of citing the inspirational value of the space program - how the moon launches excited you as a child and how the roar of a rocket, even today, can ignite the imagination of students for math and science. And yet, your desire to keep NASA as one of the world’s leaders in technology, and the model of excellence in space, appears tepid at best.
When you were visiting down there I could not help but think of a CEO of a corporation going to visit a plant where he has ordered downsizing. Everyone shakes his hand and smiles because they are still hoping they can somehow convince him to change his mind, and because they don’t want to personally be the first one thrown overboard. But they’re not really happy about it.
I’d love to have you prove me wrong on that, because I genuinely think the evidence pretty overwhelmingly says that space programs - properly focused, and with the right discipline - can be the incubators for the highest levels of technological advances in materials, energy, computers, miniaturization, and so much more.
Anyway, safe travels. I’m working late tonight, so call if you wish no matter what time your day ends. Like the moon, I’ll be up.
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