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    Walt Cunningham Signed Biographical and Motivational Typescript. One and one-half pages, the first on his personal letterhead, 8.5" x 11", dated October 29, 2004, to the McFadden family signed at close in blue ink: "Walter Cunningham". An interesting treatise on his experiences in becoming an astronaut and participating in Apollo 7 along with some very good advice for young people about pursuing their dreams. A few excerpts: "To a young person, with a burning desire to do something with their life, it may seem like it could go on forever. But as you grow, accomplish something and give back to society, you will realize as we all do, that it really is quite short. Live your life in such a way that once is enough... Dedication and commitment to yourself, your family, your country and your life's goals are not to be taken lightly. It will ensure that you are your own person and, therefore, will determine the path you are to travel. You can be either a leader or a follower... I wish I could reach every young person in America to help them realize how much more important sacrifice is for success, than peer pressure. I was one of the fortunate few to have enjoyed a special experience. But it came about through dedicated, hard work, long nights of studying and short and long term goal planning, while sometimes working five jobs to support a family... With my blessings and every good wish for a life filled with all of your dreams being realized." One horizontal fold, else fine. From the family collection of the late Tom McFadden.

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    FULL TRANSCRIPT:

    29 October 2004

     

    To the McFadden Family

     

    Following the flight of Apollo 7, the first manned flight of the Apollo program, I have been asked, many times, how I felt on that morning of October 11, 1968. With me, it has never been so much about the thrill of the ride, as how fortunate I was to be representing the United States of America.

     

    The elimination process of more than 770 qualified applicants, five years of intense training, and personal sacrifice is one for the textbook. When we launched, we were doing our job, the one we had trained for. Nothing was really a surprise for us. We were not much concerned about riding the tip of a rocket into space, even though we were much aware we would be the only crew to fly the first untested Apollo spacecraft. Once strapped into our couches and ready for launch, our only thought was to fly a good mission. We had done everything possible to avoid a repeat of the Apollo 1 fire on the pad responsible for the loss of our friends 21 months earlier. The world was watching, and we were ready.

     

    To a young person, with a burning desire to do something with their life, it may seem like it could go on forever. But as you grow, accomplish something and give back to society, you will realize as we all do, that it really is quite short. Live your life in such a way that once is enough. Don't be one of those poor unfortunates who, in later years, say, "If only I had my life to live over."

     

    As a parent and grandparent, there are a few things I want to say. They may not be necessary, but I feel you need to hear them. Dedication and commitment to yourself, your family, your country and your life's goals are not to be taken lightly. It will ensure that you are your own person and, therefore, will determine the path you are to travel. You can be either a leader or a follower. A leader picks his own direction, sets his own pace and attracts others to follow him. A follower is merely one of the pack, doing what his "friends" do with little regard for how it will affect his life. Living for today can get you into big trouble and strip you of the valuable rewards that life has to offer. I wish I could reach every young person in America to help them realize how much more important sacrifice is for success, than peer pressure.

     

    I was one of the fortunate few to have enjoyed a special experience. But it came about through dedicated, hard work, long nights of studying and short and long term goal planning, while sometimes working five jobs to support a family. I was ready, physically, mentally, and education and health wise when the opportunity to become an astronaut presented itself.

     

    On the morning of Alan Shepard's first flight, I was driving in my Porsche along Mulholland Drive in Los Angeles, California. By the time they reached the final count. 5, 4, 3, 2, 1, Liftoff! I had stopped my car on the side of the road. Before Shepard's rocket cleared the launch tower, I heard myself hollering at the top of my lungs, "You lucky, lucky guy." It never dawned on me I couldn't do that! I took that vision and ran with it. I was prepared! Two years later, I was one of fourteen Astronauts selected from 770 applicants. It was a wonderful ride and adventure. I cherish the circumstances that permitted me to contribute to society in a small way and to greatly expand our knowledge of the universe. It confirmed my belief that your vision is limited not by what your eyes can see BUT by what your mind can imagine. May the implementation of your dreams be as sweet and rewarding to you as mine have been for me.

     

    With my blessings and every good wish for a life filled with all of your dreams being realized.

     

    Sincerely,

    [signed] Walter Cunningham



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