Washington, DC—Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid made the following statement today, the 40th anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landing:
“When Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin became the first humans to touch the moon, our nation rejoiced not just because we were launching a new era of exploration and technology. When the Apollo 11 crew touched down in the Sea of Tranquility, our country cheered more than just a stunning success for science.
“When 40 years ago tonight, man first set foot on another world, we celebrated the fact that those first men were Americans.
“On the evening of July 20, 1969, millions of Americans watched with Walter Cronkite, who passed away just three days ago. As Armstrong leaped off the ladder, the anchorman took care to note that the astronaut was a ‘38-year-old American.’ Because he was an American – a boy scout from Ohio and a pilot in our Navy – we all were proud.
“We were proud that an American vehicle was the first manned spacecraft to make it to the moon’s surface, that an American’s footprint was the first to be pressed upon it, and that our American flag was the first to be planted within it. America was moving mankind forward, and we were proud to be leaders.
“But the story of the journey we celebrate today did not begin on the breathtaking night when the Eagle landed.
“It began years before: in the imaginations of Americans everywhere, in laboratories and hangars in Florida and Texas, and in a stadium in Houston where President Kennedy told us that we will choose to reach the moon within the decade and do other great things, ‘not because they are easy, but because they are hard … because that challenge is one that we are willing to accept, one we are unwilling to postpone.’
“We now must be willing to accept today’s challenges. We must be willing to accept the challenge of making it easier to live a healthy life in America. We must be unwilling to postpone our responsibility to fix what is broken.
“We now have a chance to be proud once again. We have the chance to lead once again, and for our entire nation to again achieve dramatic goals, like making health care more affordable, more stable and more secure.
“America is the last major industrialized nation on the planet that refuses to ensure all of its citizens can get health care. In the greatest country and the largest economy the world has ever seen, hardworking Americans live in fear as they live one accident, one illness or one pink slip away from losing their health coverage.
“How much longer can the country that led the way to space be content to stay in last place? How much longer can we sit this one out? How much longer can we say no?
“Our health care system is not healthy. The cost of doing nothing is too high, and not acting is not an option.
“The story of the moon landing did not begin with that one small step for a man, and it did not end there either. President Reagan credited our willingness to reach for new heights with helping our country ‘recapture its spirit of vitality and confidence.’ He pointed to the space program as proof that ‘the pioneer spirit still flourishes in America.’
“Today that spirit must prevail over partisan passions. If we confront this crisis together, we can once again restore the vitality and confidence of America, and of all Americans.
“Forty years ago, no political party had a monopoly on the lunar landing. A conservative who looked to the heavens took no less pride in our achievement than did a liberal. It was not a Republican accomplishment or a Democratic accomplishment. It was an American accomplishment.
“As we said at the beginning of this year, our strong preference is to fix health care as one collaborative Congress, not as two competing parties. As we have said throughout this debate, we will continue to work with the other side in good faith and we want to pass a bipartisan bill.
“I remain optimistic that both Republicans and Democrats recognize how urgent this is. The health of our citizens and our economy are at stake, and neither will be able to recover if we are unwilling to accept this challenge.
“When we make it easier for people to stay healthy – when we make it easier for people to afford to care for their loved ones – when we choose to do what is right, what is necessary and what is overdue – not because it is easy, but because it is hard – we will once again proudly rejoice together, as Americans.”