School History: Our Namesake
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Aldrin Elementary School is the first building in the United States named in honor of Dr. Buzz Aldrin. Dr. Aldrin was born in Montclair, New Jersey, educated at West Point, graduating with honors in 1951, number three in his class. After receiving his wings, he became a jet fighter pilot, and flew 66 missions in the Korean Conflict. Dr. Aldrin earned his Doctorate in Astronautics from M.I.T., specializing in manned space rendezvous. The techniques he devised were used on U.S. rendezvous missions, including docking with the Russian Cosmonauts.
In October 1963, Buzz Aldrin was selected by NASA as one of the early group of astronauts. In November 1966, he established a new record for Extra-Vehicular Activity (EVA) in space during his Gemini 12 orbital flight. As backup command module pilot for Apollo 8, man’s first flight around the moon, he improved operational techniques for astronautical navigation star display.
On July 20, 1969, Buzz Aldrin and Neil Armstrong made their historic Apollo 11 moon landing, becoming the first men to walk on the moon. Dr. Aldrin is the recipient of the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the highest honor among nearly 50 other distinguished awards and medals he has received from the United States and numerous foreign countries.
After retiring from NASA and the Air Force, Dr. Aldrin remained at the forefront of efforts to ensure a continued leading role for America in manned space exploration. He created a master plan of evolving missions for sustained exploration, utilizing “The Cycler” concept, a spacecraft system which makes perpetual orbits between Earth and Mars. In 1953, he received a patent for a permanent space station he designed.
In 1974, Dr. Aldrin authored an autobiography, “Return to Earth,” which was followed by another book in 1989, “Men from Earth,” which described his trip to the moon and his unique perspective on America’s future in space. Dr. Aldrin participates in many space organizations worldwide, (i.e., National Space Society), developing space programs and space education. He also endorsed two educational computer software products for America’s youth. Learn more about Buzz Aldrin in this video produced for Fairfax County Public Schools’ cable television channel Red Apple 21.
The First of Many Visits
Buzz Aldrin’s first visit to our school took place on September 1, 1994, one week before our school opened. Since that time, Dr. Aldrin has visited our school on many occasions, inspiring our students, faculty, and staff to have a passion for wonder. During his first visit, Dr. Aldrin spoke at a dinner held in his honor: “We must have the compassion to nurture the earth and the pride to go to Mars. We must have a resounding commitment to continued human exploration of the solar system so that we are able to walk in realms of wonder in a way which puts our species ahead.”
Aldrin Elementary School was dedicated on April 25, 1995. A formal ceremony began outside our school’s main entrance at 10:00 a.m. The program included a poem dedicated to Buzz Aldrin, a 21-gun rocket salute, and remarks from several guest speakers.
Dr. Aldrin’s remarks to attendees, April 25, 1995
“Few people have the opportunity to attend the dedication of a school that has been named for them. My family and I are appreciative that the leadership of Fairfax County named Aldrin Elementary School in my honor, rather than in my memory! Thank you very much. It is a privilege to be here.
Twenty-five years ago it was a privilege to be there. It was incredible to be someone who lived the words, “to go where no man has gone before,” and science fiction became scientific fact when we walked on the moon. Some of you in the audience may still remember where you were when you heard that the Eagle had landed. Some of you sat glued to a television screen as I climbed down to the surface of the moon. For a nation unwilling to accept second place in the race for space, it was a declaration of victory. For a world believing that space was an unconquerable frontier, it was a shout of triumph. “One small step for man; one giant leap for mankind.”
I still hear those words in my ears, just like the hallways of this school echo with the steps of boys and girls and adults. Each day students, teachers, and administrators alike are taking small steps together to embrace the future. Some steps are taken in wheelchairs. Some steps are aided by walkers. Some steps are the small steps of two year olds and the larger ones are the steps of 12 year olds. But no one really moves toward the future alone. Each of us has been helped in our stride toward tomorrow. The steps that occur within this school are not steps taken alone. Parents bold the hand of their children, each step a step of love.
Teachers hold the hands of students, each step a step of knowledge. Administrators hold the hands of students, parents, and faculty so that each step is supported. And community people, business leaders, people like Brian M. Mulholland, government officials like Senator Robb, Senator Warner, and so many others join hands and walk with this student body because the steps of students and faculty may look like small strides, but actually they are the steps that will take us into a world that will look very different.
It is here that you must take advantage of the latest in science and technology. It is here that you must realize that no dream is too small. And it is from here that a new generation of All-Stars have been born. Your theme this year has been ``Reaching for the Moon With Its Stars,'' and appropriately so. Schools are places for those small steps that later become giant leaps. It is here that hopes are nurtured and cultivated. It is here that children can be instructed to do what others have done, and be challenged to do what no one else has accomplished.
My message to you today is that “No dream is too high for those with their eyes in the sky.” You honor more than me and my name with this school. You honor the dreams that propelled our nation to explore space and the hopes that continue to lead us toward the future. May we continue to honor our hopes and dreams by enabling the small steps of children to become giant leaps for humanity. It is obvious that “It's one small step for man; one giant leap for mankind” every day at Aldrin Elementary School.”
Dr. Aldrin has visited our school many times since 1995. On a visit in June 2015 for our school’s 20th anniversary celebration, Dr. Aldrin told students, "You're going to leave here, and you're going to remember your teachers. I hope you will because they have given a little bit of their lives for your education. Without education, doors won't open for you.” When asked about how it felt to have a school named in his honor, Dr. Aldrin said, “It’s pretty impressive. It’s a living memorial, not just a statue or a hall, but where education takes place. And if there’s any hallmark to my success, it’s education.”
Take a moment to relive Dr. Aldrin’s visit to our school in 2009.