I was born in 1954 and grew up in the post WW2 1950’s, and pre Vietnam 1960’s. It was a very unique time in American history when our culture was changing in many ways for the better. The American dream of owning a home and having a secure life-long job, with a good retirement, was the norm. It was a season of great growth and prosperity where farms and small town America was flourishing, and there was boundless hope for the future. There was a pervasive attitude of “we can do anything” and that was reflected in every community and city across the nation. We felt secure, we had roots and family history in specific locations, and life just made sense.
Then Russia catapulted us into space by launching “Sputnick”, and this sent a shock wave into the world that cut crossed every cultural and scientific community. In a moment everyone knew that we were no longer bound to just this planet. There were other worlds to be explored out there among the stars, and it was our right and destiny to do so. I remember my father taking me out into our backyard late one night. He pointed high above us, and there it was, a tiny white dot moving slowly across the sea of stars. A Russian-made spacecraft circled the earth, and I was witnessing space history. It was just Amazing!
This event took our national imagination to a whole new level, and president Kennedy gave us a whole new vision to match it. He dedicated our national resources to landing a man on the moon before 1970, and the “Space Race” was on. Out of that vision came a transformation of our thinking, and our society, that no one could have dreamed. The development of the aerospace industry had tremendous collateral benefits, and these trickled down into every part of our society.
The most brilliant minds of the day gathered together and tackled the problems of leaving this earth. Such things as space sickness, muscle atrophy and loss of bone density in weightlessness had to be addressed. The need for micro-environmental space suits and things like freeze dried food, computer controls and circuit boards were all created to meet the needs of that which had never existed before. The technology that was birthed to accomplish this mission, inadvertently did something else, it transformed our world. Yet, did anyone ever stop to think where all of this began?
It started with two brothers who owned a bicycle shop.The Wright brothers were convinced that man was meant to fly. Leonardo Da Vinci believed it was possible, and so did Orville and Wilber. Thus from 1899 to 1903 they put together a series of mechanical systems to see it happen. They decided to mount the new gas engine, bicycle wheels and cloth covered wings to a wooden frame. Then they designed a wooden propeller, an idea they modified from a boat propeller, to pull it through the air.
Slowly, their ideas came together, and the new machine began to take shape. In November 1903, it was shipped to Kitty Hawk for final assembly at the location of their test site. On December 17th, Orville was at the controls of their machine as it rose from the wooden track and covered 120 feet in about 12 seconds. Several other flights were made that same day until a gust of wind upset the fragile craft and it was damaged. As a result, very little press was given to their efforts, and it was nearly forgotten.
The Wright brothers made or attempted a total of 105 flights during 1903. The longest of these lasted just over 5 minutes and they made more than three complete circles of the field in the air. It was not until 1906, nearly three years after the first Kitty Hawk flights, that any important articles began to appear in the newspapers telling of their amazing achievements. That well deserved international fame happened because of one man.
In 1905 Wilbur and Orville offered their invention to the United States government, but the response they received was not very warm. They wrote to their congressmen, describing the flights thus far, and asked whether the government might be interested in purchasing flying machines from them, or even acquiring the information they had accumulated for national defense. Their letter was sent to the War Department, which didn’t believe their fantastic story of men flying like birds, and it was thrown in the trash. Numerous times they wrote to the U.S. government, and their letters were continually ignored, or openly mocked.
Then, President Theodore Roosevelt was informed of the Wright brother’s persistence and he set things in motion to change the governmental indifference. His administration took steps to ask the Wright brothers to write a proposal for supplying just one of their machines for the government to consider. This caused quite a stir among the prominent political and scientific people of the day, but Roosevelt stuck to his guns. A contract was finally signed and the Wright brothers were finally able to build and deliver their new machine.
Roosevelt’s military background, his insight, and his ability to see the advantage that such a machine might have for this nation, made all the difference. Thus, the first demonstration flight, of the first military airplane in history, took place at Fort Myers, Virginia. On the warm day of September 5th, 1908, Orville Wright took his flying machine into the air. To the shock, amazement and delight of everyone, he did indeed fly like a bird.
When it was over, Orville had gone about 25 feet off the ground for just over one minute, and landed safely, to the applause and admiration of all who were present. President Roosevelt smiled, nodded his head, and history was made. In that moment the United States entered the modern age of warfare. It happened simply because first-hand experience with new technology, birthed from the imagination of two bicycle builders, overturned 10,000 years of human history. Contrary to popular belief, man could fly. That undiscovered truth, once uncovered by technology, changed everything!
I wonder what undiscovered truths are yet to be uncovered. What technology is now in it’s infancy that holds the potential to change the world, and create untold billions of dollars of personal wealth? Are there ideas floating around in your head that could bring such a change? Do you have a dream to make a difference that has yet to be fully birthed? If so, then your day is about to come!
I believe 2015 will be the year of uncovered potential. I see it as the beginning of a new season where ideas that have been hidden will come to light, and dreams that have been dormant will come to life. As I prepare to move into this new year, l do so with renewed expectancy. I have rekindled a genuine anticipation for what is about to come. My hope is that you will also move beyond your present limits, and once again be able to look with new eyes into the amazing potential of this new year. Who knows, this could be your year to fly!