“… 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.” – President John F. Kennedy (September 12, 1962, at Rice University, Houston, Texas)

On this date in 1969, we landed the first man on the moon, and part of this adventure concludes for the United States tomorrow, with the final space shuttle mission set to land at 5:56:58 a.m. EDT at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

I cannot begin to express the joy I’ve had in watching this American passage, remembering the wonder of this visionary journey and accomplishment. Betsy Mason over at Wired has an amazing piece and photo gallery on what NASA did to train the APOLLO astronauts. Thanks to everyone at NASA and all the supporters of this amazing feat, as we all await the next journey, provided Congress understands that investment, research and development is critical for America’s future. There’s absolutely no evidence at this point our politicians get this fact.

Thinking about the anniversary of the moon landing today, I’m reminded of what is required to make the seemingly impossible manifest.

When Pres. Bill Clinton ruminates about the wondrous explosion of economic growth in the ’90s he experienced as president, he never forgets to cite the amazing technological expansion of the internet that helped make it happen. He often says how he just put the pedal to the metal and exploited every aspect to help it work for America as he led the country to peacetime prosperity and a booming economy that left George W. Bush a record surplus.

Thinking of both Pres. Kennedy’s vision and Clinton’s initiative to harness what was happening in technology, is something that leads me to be unforgiving of the wasted opportunity for what Pres. Obama’s presidency might have meant to this country.

When Pres. Obama won the presidency things had turned sour economically, so what he inherited was a horrendous mess, including wars waged off the budget and a country whose leaders were disrespected around the world. His presidency held the hope that all that was about to change.

With the American people behind him wholeheartedly when he was inaugurated, the press cowed and the world waiting for greatness, Barack Obama had a once in a generation opportunity to do big things, really big things. Like tackle our energy challenges, which would impact us domestically, as well as our foreign policy and military priorities, a situation that has bled this country dry of resources we’ll never recover. He could have harnessed business leaders of industries, mayors and governors to commit to having their cities be bullet train depots, so we could finally get high-speech rail from New York to the Midwest to the Pacific Coast, from north to south and across this country, creating jobs by the thousands along the way, including side industries of workers and support, with the results manifesting a new way to travel, at least for America.

People in Europe have been traveling this way for years.

All of a sudden a tax on gas wouldn’t be so onerous. “Drill, baby, drill” a bad memory of bankrupt celebrity politicians and their fans.

But to imagine, implement and sell a nationwide building extravaganza focused on changing our energy focus Mr. Obama would have had to have had a vision. He did not. Instead he doubled down on military actions, reneged on campaign pledges to remove the stench of the Bush-Cheney legacy by doubling down on drone attacks, starting another war in Libya and continuing rendition and allowing “secret” prisons to continue. If you want to see the final gasp of “hope and change” read Jeremy Scahill’s article about Somalia. Our Nobel Peace Prize President now turned to ash.

So, as we all trudge into another presidential election cycle we’re stuck dealing with meager men and women running for the highest office in the land and the world, people who talk to interest groups, factions and fans, without having the core character to speak about a larger human purpose.

John F. Kennedy spoke of choosing to go to the moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard, but then he did something about it at a time when American limitations didn’t exist. When leaders dreamed of big things and stuck their own neck out to sell them for the good of the country, not because it would help them win the Independent vote.

We are still a great nation, but we are now led by smaller men. …and women, because you can’t have a country in the mess it is today without a collapse of leadership from all quarters, including We The People. At some point the American public has simply got to walk away from the current political class to say enough is enough.

Last View This image of the International Space Station was taken by Atlantis' STS-135 crew during a fly around as the shuttle departed the station on Tuesday, July 19, 2011. STS-135 is the final shuttle mission to the orbital laboratory. Image Credit: NASA