The summer of 1969 was not a time of domestic tranquility. Only the year before, Robert Kennedy and Martin Luther King Jr. had been assassinated, black communities in several big cities were literally in flame and anti-war protesters fought with police on the streets of Chicago during the Democratic National Convention. The year after, students would be killed by National Guardsmen at Kent State University and protesters would march on Washington, D.C.

But something momentous happened that summer: human beings set foot on the Moon for the first time. Yes, the country was divided in many ways, but a spirit of common purpose still prevailed and was a key component of getting American astronauts into space and onto the lunar surface.

Fifty years later, we are divided again. This time, it feels different. It’s not just a debate about a war, it’s not just antagonisms over race, it is a conflict between tribes that are growing farther and farther apart. Antagonisms and frictions that have always been with us have been intensified by a vastly altered news-media landscape, the power of the internet and the unrestrained demagoguery of a president. Common purpose and common ground have nearly vanished.

In the summer of 2019, do Americans still have the right stuff?

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