Key Moments in History
What makes a key moment in history? To explain, it’s best to say that the world after that moment is forever altered and that the moment serves as a catalyst for moving from one age to the other. On a smaller scale, there are important events happening every day, but only those that stand up against the test of time deserve the label of a key moment in history. Regardless of how many people know about a key moment, its influence stretches far and wide and you can see the implications of the moment all around you.
Sir Edmund Hillary Climbs the Tallest Mountain in the World
In modern times, climbing Mt. Everest may be a challenge, but most of today’s mountaineers are equipped with porters and technologically-advanced gear that helps reduce the overall challenge of the feat. Not so in 1953 when Sir Edmund Hillary and his guide, Tenzing Norgay, became the first humans to ever make it up the intimidating climb of the highest mountain in the world – Mt. Everest, measured at an impressive 29,029 feet. At the age of 34, Hillary became an international sensation and his name has since become synonymous with daring adventures.
The New Zealand native Hillary was seemingly born to be an adventurer, with his first big ascent coming at the age of 20 when he climbed Mount Ollivier. Following his subsequent fame after Mt. Everest, Hillary certainly did not give up his wandering shoes. As part of the Commonwealth Trans-Antarctic Expedition, Hillary also became one of the few people to make it to both the North and South Poles. However, what few people realize about Hillary’s life is how much he did outside the spotlight. After learning more about Nepal and the Sherpa people, Hillary began to engage in aid projects, such as building a hospital in Phaphlu and organizing fundraising efforts to improve living conditions in remote parts of the country.
After Hillary became the first Mt. Everest climber, followers started to appear in droves and today the act of ascending the famed mountain has become somewhat of a rite of passage for any serious mountaineer. More than just the ones that followed Hillary up the mountain, thousands and possibly millions more became interested in exploration, a subject that had died out in popularity. Due to Hillary’s achievement, the idea of global travel and exploration of remote places is at an all-time high.
Sarann Knight Preddy Breaks Down Casino Barriers
While not literally as momentous as Hillary’s ascent of Everest, it could be argued that the groundbreaking work of Sarann Knight Preddy has influenced just as many people, albeit not necessarily directly. Most people are well aware of Martin Luther King Jr., Rosa Parks, and other icons of the civil rights movement, but few know just how much Preddy’s actions (which predated those of King and Parks) helped kick off the national movement for equality. At the tender age of 30, Preddy was the first African-American woman to open a casino in Nevada. It may not sound like such a big deal now, but at the time, it was simply unheard of.
Born in 1920 to an Oklahoma working class family, Preddy’s parents moved the pack out to Las Vegas in 1942 in search of a more lucrative and prosperous life. Immediately, Preddy was enamored by the world of casinos and her first job in the city was as a Cotton Club employee and consisted of writing Keno tickets for the patrons. After working several years in the casinos of Las Vegas, Preddy moved to Hawthorne in 1950 to open up her own gaming establishment, called the Tonga Club, which operated as a successful place for a period of seven years. Following the closure of the Tonga Club, Preddy returned once again to Las Vegas and worked tirelessly (but unsuccessfully) to reopen Moulin Rouge – the first ever hotel-casino combination that the city had seen.
In a time when racial tensions were at their apex in the country, Preddy’s amazing story of entrepreneurship and equality is one that still serves as inspiration. Even though she is not well-known outside the state of Nevada, Preddy’s decision to open the Tonga Club and continued business ventures helped to pave the way for other African-American women to have the courage to strike out on their own with a new business. In addition, it inspired diversity in the casino industry, which helped to make Las Vegas the tourist destination it is today as well as open the door for online operators providing similar variants and much more.
First Man on the Moon
It would almost be cliché to say just how important Neil Armstrong’s infamous walk on the Moon is, but like Hillary’s Mt. Everest climb, it truly did inspire the world in a global way, not just Americans. Leading the space race, the astronauts involved in the Apollo 11 mission proved that anything was possible and that even outer space was now reachable – a concept that previously would have been dismissed as fantasy. Following the Moon landing, Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin, and Michael Collins were considered to be instant national heroes and their legacy continues to live on today.
Armstrong’s other-worldly career started in 1958, when he became part of the Man In Space Soonest program developed by the U.S. Air Force. As the project expanded into X-20 Dyna-Soar and then to Apollo, the field of potential astronauts became smaller and smaller, but Armstrong’s perseverance and desire to be part of the program helped him stay at the head of the pack. When the call finally came to invite Armstrong into the Apollo program, he quickly accepted and it was this decision that would lead to him being the first American civilian in space. The Apollo 11 mission was launched on July 16, 1969 and in total, the astronauts spent 8 days in space including the visit to the Moon.
Armstrong’s announcement of the event as “one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind” was extremely apt and its sentiment has been echoed ever since. What changed radically for the world was the basic idea of impossibility. If a man could make it to the moon, then surely it was possible to get a better job, learn a new skill, or even run for public office. The Apollo 11 mission inspired curiosity and courage throughout the world and made a radical change in the public mentality. With other momentous occasions such as the Woodstock Music Festival happening at the same time, 1969 could be considered a year when people’s thoughts in the United States and the world started to turn to the future and what might be possible a year, 10 years, and 50 years from then.
The Bretton Woods Conference
Like the life and career of Sarann Knight Preddy, another key moment in history that has flown under the radar for many was the Bretton Woods Conference in 1944 at the close of the second World War. Lasting for three weeks, this conference was attended by some 730 delegates that would work together to create a uniform global economic and financial policy to help promote world prosperity. At the time, many countries were struggling with the demands of the war and reconstruction was proving to be slow and cumbersome as nations tried to get back on their feet. The Bretton Woods Conference set into motion a plan for all countries to work together and was the biggest global agreement that the world had seen.
While you may not know the Bretton Woods Conference by name, it’s a certainty that the vast majority of the world’s population experiences its effects on almost a daily basis. One of the efforts achieved by the conference was the creation of the International Money Fund – an organization that provides money to countries to help develop infrastructure and provide technical assistance. Another development that came out of the event was the creation of an open trade system and currency exchange that is still being used today. Whenever you exchange currencies, the transaction is built on the principles established during the conference.
What the Bretton Woods Conference achieved was transforming the way that each of the present countries thought about the global economic situation. Whereas before, each country was figuratively an island, the conference sought to bring them together as a way of improving life on a global scale. For many nations, the proceedings have led to marked improvement, both in the monetary system as well as in the day to day experiences of their citizens.
Key moments in history take on many shapes and forms, but there is a common theme between them – they serve to change the world. For Hillary, Preddy, Armstrong, and the members of the Bretton Woods Conference, their actions have had long-lasting effects and have contributed greatly to the way that the world is today. From daring adventures that inspired curiosity to standing up for equality and global prosperity, each has left a legacy that is seen not only in their remembrance but also in what people experience every day. Regardless of what we achieve in later years, the future will always have an unpaid debt to the intrepid people that helped shape the world we live in.