In 1957, when the Russians launched Sputnik, I had just started High School the month before. That was the height of the Cold War, and there was no way that red blooded Americans, such as myself, were going to let the Russians beat us at anything! I was already set to be on the College Prep track, as it was called then, but I made up my mind to take as many math and science courses as possible (not the usual thing for a girl to do back then). I also took Drafting, and was the only girl in that class for 3 years! I had big plans of doing my part to help America one-up Russia in the Space Race.
For MY generation, Sputnik moment meant out doing and beating the Russians on every front. We were determined to show that we were the best nation on this earth. And we did!! I even took Russian in college, thinking it would be a valuable skill as a scientist in that era. I majored in Chemistry and minored in General Science, with lots of math courses thrown in as prerequisites.
I hope that's what President Obama had in mind, that kind of pride in America and determination to be the leading nation among the world powers, when he chose to say that we are in a Sputnik Moment in his State of the Union speech last night.
And I hope that's what it means to the youth of today hearing that phrase. But, frankly, I don't think there is any way the younger generations can possibly understand the strength of will that the American people exerted at that time to take back the lead in the Space Race. We need that same fervor to defeat this attitude that many in office seem to espouse that America has lost it's way, that it is no longer the best country in the world to live in.
So, I can only hope that the young people of today will find their OWN Sputnik Moment, when they act individually and collectively as Americans to bring our country to it's place in the world as the BEST, period.