- - Saturday, October 23, 2021

In a world where we’re told to fear a virus that’s almost 100% survivable for healthy people under the retirement age and warning labels terrify us at every turn, we recently watched a spectacle of bravery and ingenuity of the sort that built this country: 90-year-old William Shatner launching into space aboard Jeff Bezos’s Blue Origin.

This was no publicity stunt, as Mr. Shatner‘s instantly recognizable in every corner of the globe. He didn’t have to strap himself onto a rocket and submit to G-forces, and the million incalculable risks that come with “slip[ing] the surly bonds of earth to touch the face of God.” Yet Mr. Shatner did it — without a mask, without an escape pod, and without any guarantee, he‘d survive.

I’d hoped to ask the man legendary as Star Trek’s Captain James Tiberius Kirk — a friend to my late boss, Rush Limbaugh — why he took the job, but he blocked me on Twitter. Perhaps he misinterpreted my joke that, based on what we learned from his series, there was a “30% chance it’s some kind of duplicate, or he‘s being mind-controlled.” If that’s the case, I sincerely apologize because I’d never detract from his accomplishment as the oldest human ever to travel into space.

Star Trek’s legacy has been diminished by the current “woke” culture, distilled down to its superficial diversity. But crewmen weren’t given spots on the USS Enterprise because their race, creed, or skin color checked boxes. They were chosen because they were the best and because they wanted to expand the frontiers of human knowledge, “to seek out new life and new civilizations; to boldly go where no man had gone before.”

I’m reminded of being welcomed to a Korean church by a pastor’s wife who introduced me (100% Greek) and my Irish-Canadian wife to an African-American parishioner. “See?” she said proudly, “We have other Americans here!” It felt very like how Klingon’s would’ve looked at us: All one people, beyond the phenotypical characteristics we use to divide ourselves.

CBS passed on Star Trek’s first pilot because they didn’t get this “wagon train to the stars.” But then NASA kept shooting astronauts into space, capturing the nation’s imagination with President John F. Kennedy’s goal of “landing a man on the moon and returning him safely to the Earth,” so NBC decided to give it a try with Mr. Shatner at the helm, and the rest is history.

When I interviewed Charles Fishman about his book, “One Giant Leap: The Impossible Mission That Flew Us to the Moon,” he revealed that JFK said privately, “I’m not that interested in space.” Yet his vision endured after his assassination, and one can imagine him cheering as Mr. Shatner lifted off with a giant smile on his face.

For the first time since NASA mothballed the Space Shuttles, this 90-year-old equestrian has reminded us that, in Robert Browning’s words, “[A] man’s reach should exceed his grasp, or what’s a heaven for?” And if a Canadian immigrant eying 100 on the horizon chose to climb out of retirement and onto a rocket, what’s to stop us from reaching for the stars? 

Inflation, joblessness, an energy crisis, deficits, and the covid plague must have seemed so small from the Blue Origin’s windows, just as Mr. Shatner said the earth itself looked so fragile. Forget the pessimistic saying goes, “They can put a man on the moon, but they can’t do X.” We not only put a man on the moon; we put William Shatner into space.

Until Mr. Shatner‘s flight, the 2020s were feeling very much like the 1970s Carter Malaise. Those clouds lifted in 1981 when, for his first inaugural address, Ronald Reagan told the story of Private Martin Treptow of the Great War’s famed Rainbow Division, killed in 1917 on the Western Front. “The crisis we are facing today,” Mr. Reagan said, “does not require of us the kind of sacrifice that Martin Treptow and so many thousands of others were called upon to make. 

“It does require, however, our best effort and our willingness to believe in ourselves and to believe in our capacity to perform great deeds; to believe that together, with God’s help, we can and will resolve the problems which now confront us. And, after all, why shouldn’t we believe that? We are Americans.”

William Shatner gave his best effort despite his age and showed America what it means to not just live but to live life. The Constitution says he‘s ineligible to serve as president, but even gravity couldn’t hold him back from being an inspiration.

Thank you, sir, for reminding us to keep reaching for the stars.

• Dean Karayanis is a producer for the Clay Travis & Buck Sexton Show, longtime Rush Limbaugh staffer, and host of History Author Show on iHeartRadio

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