Triumph of Man

In 1968 mankind faced one of the most tumultuous years in the course of modern history. The year marked the height of the Vietnam War. In January, the battle of Khe Sanh was fought and the infamous TET offensive took place.

We also saw the worse military nuclear accident when a B52 crashed off the coast of Greenland discharging four nuclear bombs into the Atlantic ocean. While Italy experienced one of its worst natural disasters in the post war period when an earthquake took the lives of over 200 people.

And that is only January. February and March saw civil rights marches, the 1968 Polish political crisis, the taking over of the University of Nanterre, and the My Lai Massacre.

Spring wouldn’t be any better, both Bobby Kennedy and Martin Luther King would be assassinated, Andy Warhol would get shot, Saddam Hussein would have his first major administrative post in government in Iraq after a coup and The Prague Spring leads to the invasion of Czechoslovakia by the rest of the East bloc.

The Summer months saw worldwide protests from France to Mexico to Britain, the Olympics would see Tommie Smith and John Carlos raise their infamous blacked glove salute and police brutality in Ireland leads to the start of the sectarian war now known as the Troubles.

Autumn saw Brazil enter a period of military dictatorship which would last for years.

By winter it had been clear 1968 had not been a good year. Worldwide protest hastened about the changing of the guard but at a terrible price, two of the world’s great leaders had been assassinated and costly war in Southeast Asia dragged on without end in sight.

But in December, Apollo 8, a warm-up mission to Apollo 11 became the first manned craft to escape low earth orbit. And its flight would take it to orbit the moon and back in anticipation of the later mission. During the flight the world watched as images were beamed back which showed our earth from space for the first time.

From space all the pains and strife and trials and tribulations disappeared amidst the image of our planet suspended in the vast and foreboding emptiness of space. On Christmas Eve 1968, after Apollo 8 had entered lunar orbit, the first ever ‘earth rise’ was photographed. We saw our planet rise over the moon’s horizon and for one moment the world was united and held its collective breath as we marveled at our accomplishment and pondered at our insignificance.

2011 has not been a good year and as the months progress it will undoubtedly get worse before it gets better. Do remember that for all the bad that we do as a species the potential is there for us to accomplish and succeed, that if we pull together as not only nations but as people there is no limit to what possibilities lay ahead. More importantly remember that hope transcends hatred and hope that petty differences mean a lot less than overwhelming similarities. Wishing you good night and godspeed.

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