Federal Way's own space race | Andy Hobbs

At the beginning of his presidency, John F. Kennedy vowed to land a man on the moon. The feat, accomplished in 1969, marked the peak of the space race.

The space race set the bar for achievement while sending the world’s imagination and creativity in directions no human had gone before.

The race stemmed from the Cold War rivalry with the Soviet Union in an era dominated by diplomatic tension and nuclear weapons. Americans feared losing ground to the Soviets as both nations made missiles and launched satellites. This sparked unprecedented spending on education and scientific research. The U.S. government even pushed for a greater emphasis on math and science in schools. Innovations from the era — from telecommunications to aerospace engineering to dried foods — are staples of modern life.

The space race also changed the way we view the planet. The iconic “Earthrise” photo, captured in 1968, showed humans their fragile blue home in full color for the first time — and is credited for fueling the modern environmentalist movement.

Landing on the moon may have sounded like an impossible goal when first announced, but it was a concrete goal: We’ll know when we reach it. Likewise, the world is a better place for pursuing that goal.

The principles of the space race can apply to Federal Way, in the sense that the race was about competition and survival. It’s in everyone’s best interest to live the most fulfilling life possible. The key is setting a concrete goal for improving quality of life, then chasing after it.

Federal Way leaders call for more economic development in the city’s downtown core. Tax revenues are essential to healthy schools, roads and public safety. One concrete goal is to build a civic center. This proposed project has the potential to become a destination that enriches Federal Way with jobs and visitors. But is that goal broad enough to act as a catalyst for significant revitalization?

Consider the Cascadia MedTech Association, launched in 2010 to nurture a collection of medical device businesses in the city. It is a worthwhile goal for boosting Federal Way’s economy, but how do we get everyday citizens behind it? Should the city aim for tourism dollars by marketing its cultural melting pot of restaurants, or by pursuing novelties like the World Championship of Sand Sculpting?

Regardless, any plan to enrich quality of life requires a guidepost that’s bold enough to inspire public support, realistic enough to reach and broad enough to pave a path of creativity. In the spirit of the space race, Federal Way will win by shooting for the moon.

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