Here in Washington, D.C., we are all rocking the red to celebrate our Washington Capitals winning the Stanley Cup last week. Today, as the Capitals Championship Parade worked its way down the National Mall and ended with a rally outside our museum, we joined thousands of people cheering for our triumphant home team.
And while you might not think there is much of a connection between hockey and human flight, it is fitting that this victory was celebrated just outside the Smithsonian’s National Air and Space Museum.
Winning a championship takes leadership and strong individual effort, but above all, teamwork. The Capitals would not have succeeded without Alex Ovechkin’s leadership, Devante Smith-Pelly and Lars Eller’s clutch goals, and Braden Holtby’s defensive play. But it wasn’t just the performance of those four players in the five games of the Stanley Cup Finals that brought Washington, D.C., its first major league championship in a generation. It takes a team, from the coaches to the trainers, and of course the players, working together toward a common goal.
When a team accomplishes what, at times, seemed impossible, it becomes a victory for all—an entire city or country, or all humankind.
When President Kennedy committed the United States to “landing a man on the Moon and returning him safely to the Earth,” it wasn’t a call to individual action. The complexity of the task would require the resources of vast sectors of the American economy and workforce. In the end, a team of more than 400,000 people—from astronauts and administrators to software engineers and human computers—worked together to accomplish an age-old dream in eight short years.
This fall, we will begin our celebration of the 50th anniversary of those historic Apollo missions. We will be talking about the leadership, individual effort, and above all teamwork that made history—and how we can apply the lessons of America’s moonshots to the challenges and opportunities of the 21st century.
While it isn’t as recognizable as the Stanley Cup, we award our own trophy here at the National Air and Space Museum, and it’s one of the highest honors in aerospace.
In 2017, the National Air and Space Museum Trophy for current achievement went to Kenn Borek Air’s South Pole Rescue Team. The flight team, consisting of a pilot, a first officer, an aircraft maintenance engineer, and two medics, conducted a daring rescue of two researchers who had taken ill at the National Science Foundation’s Amundsen-Scott South Pole Station in Antarctica. When asked about what it took to conduct the harrowing mid-winter medical evacuation, pilot Wally Dobchuk credited their ability to brainstorm as a group to tackle the challenges of the flight. And without the teamwork of hundreds of people involved in the precise planning and support of the mission, Wally said, it wouldn’t have been successful.
In the city of Washington, D.C., and to fans across the country, the Capitals’ championship is a shared victory. It’s the culmination of years of triumphant highs, heartbreaking lows, and unwavering support. This victory isn’t limited to the 27 players on the ice, because we are #ALLCAPS.
When a team accomplishes what, at times, seemed impossible, it becomes a victory for all—an entire city or country, or all humankind. We see this in milestones throughout aviation history, and we celebrate those shared victories throughout our Museum.
The whole world shared in the moment when Neil Armstrong walked on the Moon in 1969. It wasn’t solely a victory for the crew, or for NASA, or even for the United States. It was a triumph, accomplished by many, on behalf of everyone, everywhere. Once back on Earth, the astronauts traveled to 27 cities in 24 countries in just 45 days as part of the Giantstep-Apollo 11 Presidential Goodwill Tour. Their around-the-world victory lap began in New York City, with a ticker-tape parade through the “Canyon of Heroes” along Broadway and Park Avenue.
We saw it in 1927 when Charles Lindbergh returned from his solo flight across the Atlantic. Millions gathered for a ticker-tape parade in New York City to cheer his triumph. But before he was heralded in New York, he stopped in Washington, D.C., where he and the Spirit of St. Louis paraded down the National Mall—just like our triumphant Capitals would exactly 91 years and one day later.
And when a sports team brings a championship to a city that hasn’t seen one in 25 years, the whole city comes out to celebrate.