The Antidote to Boosterism

Bret Stephens offers Neal Armstrong as a worthy example in Apollo 11’s Forgotten Virtues (“Armstrong stayed humble, and human, in the era of relentless puffery and self-promotion”):

There’s a short scene near the end of “Apollo 11,” the thrilling new documentary about history’s greatest spaceflight, in which Mike Collins, Buzz Aldrin and Neil Armstrong make a TV broadcast on their way home from the moon.

“We’d like to give a special thanks to all those Americans who built the spacecraft, who did the construction, design, the tests, and put their heart and all their abilities into the [space]crafts,” says Armstrong. “To those people tonight we give a special thank you.”

The film cuts to a shot of thousands of technicians assembled in an immense hangar, beaming with pride. At the zenith of his fame, the hero proves his worth by honoring those to whom the glory is truly owed.


He stayed humble, and human, in the era of relentless puffery and self-promotion. This, too, feels as bygone as the Saturn V, the Right Stuff, and the “one small step”— and as missed.

Dr. Jonas Salk is another good example of humility from those who have achieved great things.  See For Your Consideration, Dr. Jonas Salk.

We find ourselves with too little modesty, too little humility, in small towns that should embrace these virtues as virtues.  Instead, one finds small-town special interests speaking and writing in a grandiose and flamboyant style:

The GWC is an action-oriented group committed to working with citizens, elected officials and policy makers to identify, craft and implement a pro-business agenda. The agenda advances the economic, education and social policies required to energize and secure the Whitewater area’s economic future, as well as protect Whitewater’s quality of life.

By working closely with the City of Whitewater, University of Wisconsin-Whitewater, Whitewater Unified School District and the local community, Whitewater can increase its visibility and become a beacon for business and leisure in the state of Wisconsin.

See The Middle Lane is a Dirt Road to Decay, Pt. 2.

Whitewater’s better future does not rest with local appeals to vanity and self-promotion, but to the long tradition of humble achievement in America and places beyond.

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