Thirtieth Anniversary

I missed my 30th Anniversary yesterday.  No, not my wedding anniversary, that one I have down pat, thank you.  My 30th anniversary of working at NASA. 

Gosh, I feel really old saying that.  When I started it was all the old guys who said things like that.  But you know it seems like yesterday.  That is an old guy thing to say, too.

As it turns out, I wouldn’t trade the experience for anything.  I have been very lucky – very blessed – to have these opportunities and to take part in this wonderful and noble endeavor. 

When I got the job offer from NASA, my father — a small businessman — jokingly said he was going to disown me for going on the government dole.  It was as if working for the government was something only the lazy would do.  Hmm.  My experience has been anything but.  A lot of folks like to denigrate government workers.  There may be some places where that is valid, but in my observation — and not just at NASA — government service is full of people who are dedicated, hardworking, and trying to make a difference. 

Besides, I would have willingly paid them to let me set foot in the door at NASA.  I still can’t believe I get a paycheck to do what is so much fun every day.  Well, most days it is fun.

The most striking memory from reporting on my first day was the surprise I had when the human resources guy told me to raise my right and swear the oath.  I hadn’t counted on that! 

Modeled on the one the President has to say on inauguration day, the one in the Constitution — I looked it up — Article II Section 1.  Very nearly the same oath that our servicemen and women swear when they report for duty:  “I will, to the best of my abilities, preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution of the United States.”

Funny coincidence, but unconscious of my anniversary date, I went yesterday to see it.  In a few free minutes before reporting to my duty station on the Mall in the NASA tent at the folklife festival, I went to see the Declaration, the Bill of Rights, the Constitution, and the Magna Carta too; all at the National Archives.  I stood in line with the rest of the tourists, visited the hushed atrium, and bent over the sturdy cases to read the ink that has nearly faded away.  Just a few minute break in the early part of the day.  But how meaningful.

Wow.  That oath I swore when I started work was NOT to get us back to the moon ,or to do my best to successfully launch rockets, but to preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution.  Of course, Federal law and regulations being what they are, successfully launching rockets and helping the nation get back to the moon is part of my little niche in the government.  But it is important to remember the larger picture.

As Americans, we don’t swear allegience to a person, nor to a particular parcel of land, nor to a group of people; rather we commend our best and hardest work to . . . an idea. 

An idea of fairness, justice, and democracy.  Certain inalienable rights, including the notion that everybody counts.  A basic perspective which includes a particular way of living and a strong perspective on other people.  The right to pursue happiness as we see fit.

An idea. 

How different that is from other oaths that have been sworn in other places at other times.

We all have to do something in this life.  I have been fortunate enough to work on exciting and interesting projects.  But we are all required to work on building a better America. 

How I wish that Katherine Lee Bates had been right when she wrote:  “Thine alabaster cities gleam, undimmed by human tears”.  That is not true, not by a long shot.  But I reckon it is our job to make those words become true.  That is what the idea is all about.  It will take hard work, and probably a long time.  But it seems that I’ve signed on to that goal.  I hope you will, too.

This is a long way from the topics that I intended to put in this blog.  Maybe this is a more fit topic for next week.

Its been a great 30 years.  I hope I get to do this for another 30!

See you next week.



10 thoughts on “Thirtieth Anniversary”

  1. It wasn’t the constitution, but some of us pledged allegiance to the flag every day for 2/3 of the year for 12 years.

    Private sector workers only work 2 hours a day. Customers have a choice whether or not to pay them & if they only get 2 hours of work per day, tough. Government workers need to work 8 hours a day. Customers don’t have a choice in paying them. So maybe government is more noble.

  2. Wayne,
    Thanks for working the dream. I am just now beginning the road that you have walked. Without your help my road would be even harder to see and much harder to drive on. My hope is that my generation takes the efforts that have made this the best country in the world and continue it on. I hope that the change we make is always for the positive and I truly hope that we, as Americans, live the life to support and defend the constitution against all enemies foreign and domestic.

    May the space program generate happiness for everyone on the planet and liberate oppression through inspiration.

  3. Mr. Hale is there anyway we can equip the last shuttle mission with
    a lot less weight to add to the space station itself as a permanent module. The doors on the cargo bay wouldn’t be needed anymore for example I would just hate to see the last shuttle wind up in a museum.
    Also it is amazing to see those two spacecraft together. We could send it up with less weight and a lot more tech. Even it only stays up for a year or two it could always break away and then get back to earth. It would make a great living quarters if nothing else.
    P.S. please get back to me.

  4. From the movie “Field of Dreams”…

    “Shoeless Joe Jackson: Man, I did love this game. I’d have played for food money. It was the game… The sounds, the smells. Did you ever hold a ball or a glove to your face?
    Ray Kinsella: Yeah.
    Shoeless Joe Jackson: I used to love travelling on the trains from town to town. The hotels… brass spittoons in the lobbies, brass beds in the rooms. It was the crowd, rising to their feet when the ball was hit deep. Shoot, I’d play for nothing!”

    Wayne, I hope that you understand the metaphor here…

    It’s a side benefit when you get paid to do something you love to do anyway. But it’s funny that there are parallels in this life. Allow me to explain.

    30 years ago this coming September, I entered an apprenticeship in Instrument Repair at U.S. Steel’s Homestead Works that changed the course of my life. I’d always loved to see why and how things worked, and little did I know that this field would give me that oppportunity.

    Because of it, I’ve traveled the world on the company’s dime, and eventually wound up walking beneath Endeavour with my family for our 25th anniversary in 2004.

    The skill roughly translates to what NASA’s INCO people do…although I doubt any of them has commissioned power plants, they have an unmatched dedication to what they do.

    In a sense, space is a “field of dreams”…ask any of your astronauts, and they’ll agree with me. But not everyone can go yet, and so most of us must experience it by vicarious methods.

  5. Hi Wayne,

    Congratulations for making it 30 years at NASA, and thank you for serving your country so-so well throughout that time. And thanks for your blogs too.

    Isn’t DC great!!! I recall the 4 years I spent working for COMSAT when they were headquartered at L’Enfant Plaza back in the late 80s. I would find myself more often than not roaming the mall, and ‘tasting’ the treasures here and there on a weekly basis. It’s one of the few places I’d find it hard to get bored with.

    An early Happy 4th of July!! – and enjoy the fabulous fireworks display!!


  6. Congrats on you first 30 years. I hope I’m still around to share in your 60th Anniversary celebration too!

  7. Happy 30th, Wayne!

    And by the way, thanks for taking on this blog project. For all of us who take part in space exploration vicariously, being able to communicate with those who are involved directly is no small thing. Thanks for spending your valuable time on this.

  8. Congratulations on both your anniversaries, Wayne.

    Wondering if the blog is having trouble taking posts. I tried numerous times to add a post to an earlier item and it didn’t work, something about an invalid character. Then I noticed no new entries for a few days. We’ll see if this works.

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