I spent some time last week talking about the lack of dignity and restraint that’s so evident in our society today, contrasting not just trashy celebs but people like fallen Guv Mark Sanford with class acts like Joe DiMaggio, who maintained a proud sense of himself despite endless opportunities to sell his private life to the public.
Another man who belongs in the Dignity Hall of Fame is Neil Armstrong, whom everyone is remembering today. The man is so averse to publicity, so loath to cash in on his historical significance, that I was trying to remember the other day whether he was still alive. I asked my wife if she recalled Armstrong dying. She said no, but neither of us could remember the last time we heard anything about him.
A good WaPo feature on Armstrong today explains the silence: The man has always refused to play the celeb game, unlike his more garrulous co-pilot Buzz Aldrin, shown here in a Louis Vuitton ad. Even for this 40th Anniversary (and who knows if he’ll make it to a 50th?), the 78-year old Armstrong had to be persuaded to show up in Washington for the ceremonies, at which he spoke only briefly, dishing credit to everyone else in the Apollo program.
Why the reticence? The WaPo writer has a solid theory, I think:
In a culture that crushes and disfigures the famous, Armstrong was Olympian in his discipline and humility, never tarnishing the grand moment that fate handed him. The ultimate professional, he did what was asked of him, and then went home, spurning the laurels.
Isn’t that a great line–“never tarnishing the grand moment that fate handed him”? How many of our famous people can resist doing that?
PS–depressing footnote: When I sought a Google Images pic for this page, the majority of photos returned were attached to stories charging that the entire moon landing was a hoax. The Americans who believe that have one vote, just like the rest of us.