Speech of the Day 7/24/13: President Kennedy, "We Choose To Go To The Moon"

Wed, 07/24/2013

President Kennedy shows early astronauts where the moon is.

Today's speech of the day is actually two speeches. Or a speech and a snipet of a speech, but both are from President Kennedy, so I'm OK with bending the rules a bit.


Every July, we talk about the anniversary of the moon landing. We talk about Neil Armstrong's "One small step for man, one giant leap for mankind." (He says he said one small step for A man, but we all know what we heard).

But Neil Armstrong wouldn't have ever set foot on the moon if President Kennedy hadn't set out a big ambitious goal:


"First, I believe this nation should commit itself to the goal, before the decade is out, of landing a man on the moon..."


Everybody remembers that part. It's famous. It's iconic. It quite literally defined an era. It committed us as a nation to doing something monumental. But far less often do we hear the rest of the quote: "...and returning him safely to the earth."

You can see the clip here.


The "returning safely" part is what I want to recognize today. Because it was on this date in 1969 that those astronauts returned, safely to earth.

Apollo 11 astronauts return home

It was the "getting home" part that was always going to be hard. We knew what we could do on earth, but as we know, nobody had ever been to the moon before. It was entirey likely that Armstrong and Aldrin wouldn't be able to get home. They might be trapped on the moon forever. 

So why go?

That's the real speech I wanted to share today.

On September 12, 1962, President Kennedy spoke at Rice University, and he answered exactly that question:

"Yet the vows of this Nation can only be fulfilled  if we in this Nation are first, and, therefore, we intend to be first. In short, our leadership in science and in industry, our hopes for peace and security, our obligations to ourselves and others all require us to make this effort, to solve these mysteries, to solve them for the good of all men, and to become the world's leading space-faring nation...

"...We choose to go to the moon. We choose to go to the moon in this decade and to do to other things not because they are easy, but because they are hard, because that goal will serve to organize and measure the best of our energies and skills, because that challenge is one that we are willing to accept, one we are unwilling to postpone, and one which we intend to win, and the others, too."

(Full text here)

How's that for a way to sell a huge government program that might well leave a couple guys stranded on a big lump of green cheese 239,000 miles from home?

What the President did in this speech was appeal to our sense of shared commitment. He told us we were all in this together. He told us that it was our duty, part of our national character to do things that are hard. And he told us we would win. In doing so, he built a movement. There was not a single American who didn't want us to succeed. And when we accomplished our goal, we did it together.

So without further ado, I give you today's speech of the day, from September 1962 at Rice University: "We choose to go to the moon." 


Video here: http://youtu.be/ouRbkBAOGEw


Note: I'm having some technical difficulties today, which is why I didn't just embed the links. I'll fix that as soon as I can!