It’s a parable. This week, on a planet weeks away, earthlings achieved heavier than air flight. Considering that we flew for the first time on our own planet only 118 years ago (within feasible limits of a very successful human lifetime), the achievement is remarkable. What I found most fascinating about the live stream provided by NASA, however, was the human element in the control room. Not only did all the engineers look young enough to have been my children, I was cheered almost to tears to see several women among them. We’ve come a long way. And I don’t mean just to get to Mars. There’s a lot of work yet to be done on the planet on which we evolved, but it does me good to see scientists recognizing the contributions women make to progress.
While many cultures worldwide still consider women the property of men, that scene showed that with women in leadership roles we can achieve remarkable things. Only with the priorities of diversifying the workplace could we realize a dream that began long before Kitty Hawk. People of all genders and all ethnicities have much to offer our growing sense of accomplishment. Mars is millions of miles away. Perseverance and Ingenuity are being controlled across this godlike distance by a group of humans that consists not just of angry white men who want to rule this world. Although the palpable excitement in the room was for what was happening far away, my spirits were buoyed by what was happening here.
Our biology defines us, but it becomes a sin when it confines us. We are capable of more. We’ve flown on another planet, and yet we still need to learn that on this planet all people deserve fair and equitable treatment. It boggles my mind that on that reddish speck I can see on a clear night, a speck so small that my pinkie held at arm’s length can obliterate it, we have landed a car-sized rover and a helicopter. The math involved staggers this old mind, but the imagination inspires it. We come to moments like these when women and men of various backgrounds come together and dream. Double-masked and socially distant, young people have shown us a world far beyond what angry white men could even imagine. Watching the video of a helicopter taking off, hovering, and landing on another planet, looking at the people in the room, I realize there is a parable here.