Gene Kranz is a living legend. It’s not everybody who has their vest enshrined at the Smithsonian.

When astronauts Jim Lovell, Jack Swigert, and Fred Haise were trapped in a faulty Apollo 13 spacecraft 250,000 miles from Earth, he and his TEAM were able to come up with a plan to get them home.

The plan did not come out of nowhere. His 8-step plan was already in place.

The TEAM plan was:

• Define the problem

• Determine goals

• Generate many solutions

• Evaluate each solution and consequences

• Use the evaluations to choose one or more courses of action

• Plan the course(s) of action

• Implement with a full commitment

• Adapt as needed

Simple, direct and goal-oriented. And “Failure was not an option.”

It’s not a coincidence that Gene Franz was put in charge of solving NASA’s problems. Franz oversaw Apollo 1 launch when tragically a fire swept through the test module and killed Gus Grissom, Ed White, and Roger Chafee. I remember that day. I was playing my trombone in a Regional Band concert at Ross Robinson Jr. High in Kingsport, Tennessee. Shocked, but the show had to go on.

The very next day, Gene Kranz addressed his TEAM known as “the Franz Dictum”. It stressed two things: be tough and be competent.

In his address to the Mission Control TEAM Kranz said, “Tough means we are forever accountable for what we do or what we fail to do … Competent means we will never take anything for granted. We will never be found short in our knowledge and in our skills.”

Here in the Commonwealth, we are very fortunate that we elected Andy Beshear this past November. He was made for this crisis. His calm demeanor, his positive attitude, and his focus on mental health is what the doctor ordered.

His daily press conferences would make Gene Kranz proud. Gov. Beshear is tough and competent. He strikes the right tone for the moment.

“Washing hands, social distancing, minding folks who are vulnerable, taking only what you need from the supermarket” is his mantra every day.

Gov. Beshear has activated the state health operations center which helps state officials communicate with local health departments, an important step as testing for the virus is set to shift to our local hospitals.

When you and a friend perform the behaviors to keep yourself and others safe, he wants all Kentuckians to share the good news on Facebook and Twitter using hashtags #togetherKY and #TeamKentucky.

As a result of his very successful campaign to communicate the science and responsible behaviors advocated by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the National Institute of Health, he has become a host of memes that have trended nationally. That is a bonus for Kentuckians and helps people outside the Commonwealth pay attention to those safe behaviors that must happen to stop this pandemic.

Here in Calloway County, educators of Calloway County Schools, Murray Independent Schools and Murray State are doing their own version of the Apollo 13 Gene Franz plan.

Superintendents, central staff, principals, assistant principals, teachers, guidance counselors, teacher assistants, secretaries, cafeteria workers, bus drivers and custodians, are delivering meals to students, counseling and providing services to special needs students, planning and implementing for the daily lessons sent to students, collaborating with other school districts, monitoring student progress, and practicing safe behaviors to stay well.

This from a Facebook page on the coronavirus impact on educators: “These educators were given little notice and were asked to completely redesign what their school looks like in about 24 hours. They Apollo 13’ed the problem! No state agency did this, no experts on curriculum did this. Your local educators fixed it in hours. HOURS.”

“Remember that the next time someone tells you that teachers have it easy or try to persuade you that educators are not among the smartest, most ingenious people in society – get out of the way and watch with amazement at what really happens!”

Just like the Apollo 13 mission was classified as a “successful failure,” so too will this coronavirus pandemic teach us locally valuable lessons in goal setting, preparation, commitment and adaptation.


Marshall Ward is a Murray resident who is a member of the Democratic Party. He may be reached at

Editor’s Note: Opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect the editorial opinion of the Murray Ledger & Times.

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