I talk to and interview authors all of the time. Some of them are nearly unknown, while others are famous. Last week, I had the honor of meeting a man who is truly famous -- not because he's been on a reality show, or argued politics on TV -- but because he is a real American hero.
Buzz Aldrin was the second human being to set foot on the moon, following his colleague Neil Armstrong down the ladder of their Apollo 11 Lunar Module, which Aldrin had piloted from the Apollo 11 spacecraft to the surface of the moon. In a conversation between Aldrin and Armstrong relayed back to earth, Aldrin described that surface as "magnificent desolation."
That's also the title he chose for his new autobiography: Magnificent Desolation: The Long Journey Back from the Moon (Harmony). If you don't know anything about Aldrin's life post-Apollo 11, you'll learn in this book that the title is apt. He struggled for quite a few years with depression and alcoholism, before becoming sober in 1978 (he has since celebrated his 30th year of sobriety). He endured many disappointments, setbacks, and bad decisions of his own before finding the path that has given him the most satisfaction: Working to educate as many Americans as possible about the next steps he believes we should take in outer space (hint: Aldrin is interested in Mars).
No wonder, then, that his new book for children has a more hopeful title: Look to the Stars (illustrated by Wendell Minor) from Penguin Books uses Buzz Aldrin's early life as a way to inspire young people to consider learning more about space and aeronautics. What a wonderful thing to be doing at age 79, and what a wonderful way to redeem some measure of lost time.
Meeting Aldrin made me realize something that we discuss all the time in relation to public figures: They let us down sometimes. I can imagine that some men who were young boys in the 1970s would have been terribly disappointed to find out that their hero, Buzz Aldrin, was reduced to selling cars for a while. However, that disappointment does not cancel out great deeds. Buzz Aldrin did something hard and courageous in the service of his country. He's an American hero. Take a look at his new books, and you'll get a new view on Buzz.