September 12th will mark the 50th Anniversary of John F. Kennedy’s famous speech at Rice University launching the project that would put Neil Armstrong on the moon less than 8 years later. Listening to his speech again today, one can only be inspired by the vision and ambition – in the face of an enormous challenge – that captured the imagination of the nation and the world.
And one can only wonder why this same ambition, this same energy, this same sense of purpose seems all too often to be completely absent today. Why our leaders – in politics as in business – seem far too often to set the bar so remarkably low, rationalizing this lack of ambition as pragmatism. Just being “realistic”. Yes, there is a place in this world for pragmatism, for realism. But this does not excuse the apathy – or worse cynicism – of our society’s most fortunate and powerful in the face of great opportunity and risk (for these two are just different faces of the same coin.)
Preserve my job. My power. My capital. Nothing truly worthwhile in any domain of human achievement has ever been accomplished by people or societies that were ruled by this mindset. And yet it is pervasive.
As our global society and economy transitions from the industrial to the information age, the size and scope of the challenges we face are even bigger than those involved in putting a man on the moon. Every facet of our institutions (government, business, education, culture) will need to be re-configured over the next few decades if we are to survive and ultimately thrive in this new world. We need ambitious, passionate, energetic people to stand up and embrace this opportunity for re-invention. Leaders. Doers.
At Anthemis, I am tremendously fortunate to be able to work with dozens of such people who bring their talents and energy to bear each and every day working towards our big, important goal of re-inventing finance. Â They do this not because it is easy, but because it is hard. Not because success is assured, but because it is important for them to succeed. Sure, it’s easier to be cynical. To say it can’t be done.
We choose to go to the moon. We choose to go to the moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard, because that goal will serve to organize and measure the best of our energies and skills, because that challenge is one that we are willing to accept, one we are unwilling to postpone, and one which we intend to win, and the others, too. Â – John F. Kennedy
We do have choices. The future is ours to invent. Join us.
- Rothkopf: will America ever have another Neil Armstrong? (newsday.com)