TIME 100 Photos

Caitlyn Jenner: The Photo That Influenced Me Most

To celebrate the launch of TIME’s new multimedia project – 100 Photographs: The Most Influential Images of All Time – we asked leaders in a number of fields, from technology to the arts to business, to share the single photograph that most influenced their lives. Purchase the 100 Photographs book now.

What picture do I remember that really had an impact on my life, or what event symbolized that? I’ve been around for a long time. I was first thinking about trans issues, something that I’m dealing with. I was thinking about a picture of Christine Jorgensen or Renée Richards — some of the early pioneers who, when I was a little kid and couldn’t talk to anybody about this, I looked at and thought: “Wow, this is possible.”

But then, I was watching Discovery Channel’s When We Left Earth and the whole series on the Apollo 11 mission to the Moon. I want to show the takeoff instead of the Moon landing, because that was the beginning of the journey that brought humanity together. When John F. Kennedy said, we want to put a man on the Moon in this decade, not because it’s easy, but because it’s difficult, it put out a challenge to our country, our technology, our people to pull this off. To see what our country did in that decade, the successes, the failures — I’m a pilot, I love aviation, I just love all this stuff — so I followed it very closely.

I remember being so excited and so proud of our country and this great journey that we were doing not only for our country, but for humanity. And you saw the entire world come together as one, as human beings. Nobody is worried about borders, nobody is worried about religious differences, nobody is worried the pigmentation of your skin, ethnic background. It was all of humanity watching this as one and seeing what we have the possibility of doing if we put our minds to it.

In my lifetime, how many times has that really happened? It’s the only time I can think of that we were all united as people.

Caitlyn Jenner is a television star, Olympian and transgender activist.

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