Young Eagles

Dreams… Catalysts for achievement

As a young boy, I grew up in Chicago in the 1940s. I still can vividly recall when we watched the black-and-white World War II Movietone newsreels footage. I even remember how we watched military aviation legends in action such as Bob Hoover, Joe Foss, and “Tex” Hill.

It was those days that the seed of a great dream was planted inside of me to one day experience the excitement of landing aboard an amazing aircraft carrier. How could I have known that this boy’s dream would inspire me one day to not only accomplish that feat but that it would also challenge me to venture where few men had ventured before.

Well, many people know me as “the last man on the moon” but so many people also look at me surprised when I’m telling them that, in my opinion, the key legacy of the Wright brothers is not commercial aviation, technological advancement, or space flight. When looking back at that historic December 1903 day and the lasting contribution the Wright Brothers contribution made to mankind, I think it rather is the legacy of motivation, inspiration, and the excitement that’s found within all of those who follow in the footsteps of Wilbur and Orville Wright.

Since the Brothers’ first flight at Kitty Hawk, flying and the world of aviation have had a romantic impact on our collective imagination and it is the Wright Brothers’ incredible passion and accomplishment that were passed on for many generations to come. However, unlike many other developments and achievements that may bloom to only fade away, the world of aviation hasn’t gone. It has only grown and the fascination continues.

Aviation seems to be an endless inspirational source that has a profound, sometimes perhaps romantic effect on all of us, no matter what age we are. But, to be fair, the dreams that come with flying are most potent in the hearts and minds of the young ones. This is why the youth education programs of the EAA are truly indispensable. These programs make learning fun for children. And we all know that when learning is fun, a child can be taught anything. The feel of enjoyment is a natural catalyst for learning more and more in young people. The more they’ve learned, the more they’re wanting to learn.

Let’s look at the EAA’s Young Eagles program. This is so much more than just a free flight experience. It inspires children to learn more and more and do more and more. The result is that they’ll acquire more knowledge, better discipline, and far better judgment and these are typically the characteristics required to become productive and responsible adults. We all have the responsibility to provide our children with these tools if we want to help them accomplish tasks they never thought they were capable of. Right?

When U grew up, my father used to say “Always do your best.” And later, I passed this on to my children and my grandchildren. If I hear a child doubting its potential, I say the same thing: “Tell me what it is you can’t do! You just need to want it badly! If I was able to walk on the moon, why couldn’t you do anything you want!”

The reasons that the EAA’s Young Eagles program and the AirVenture air show exist are exactly found in the sheer endless possibilities of what we can achieve. The Air Show features pilots who are pushing the limits of what is possible. Have you noticed how many parents and their kids are watching in awe as the pilots perform the near-impossible with their aircraft? It’s all about what EAA does through things like the AeroScolars program, the Young Eagles program, and the Air Academy for the remainder of the year’s 51 weeks. These activities are the truly significant backbone of the Association and offer the foundation and inspiration. EAA’s activities stimulate young people to make their dreams come true while, at the same time, instilling the proper work ethic and attitude to achieve those disarms. All through my life, I’ve challenged young adults to live up to their dreams, to dream the impossible, and then get out to make it all happen!

Even when it’s just a few young adults that we can influence through aviation, our efforts are fruitful. Passing along the mentality and spirit of Orville and Wilbur Wright will ensure that for generations to come, the dream to achieve great things will continue to be alive. Just be aware that we always must shoot for the moon, because even when we miss, we’ll still be landing somewhere among the stars.