JFK, a man of inspiration
To understand how inspiring President John F. Kennedy’s moon speech of 1962 was, you have to understand the times.
If you grew up in the United States before 1962, travel to the moon was the stuff of science fiction movies and jokes.
Moon travel was beyond man’s reach. People had little knowledge of what might be on the moon. People take it for granted now, but only because JFK made travel to the moon possible. He made us believe it was possible and he united people behind the dream.
The Russians were the powerful Soviets then, the USSR, one of the greatest and most feared super powers. They planned to travel to space and claim it as territory from which they could control the world. That instilled fear in Americans at the time.
In 1962, it was fantastical to think we could reach the moon in a lifetime, certainly not in the near future.
When JFK gave his speech at Rice University on September 12 1962, he said we intended to be the first into space. Space would be a place of science not a new terrifying theater of war.
JFK united Americans around an amazing idea.
JFK had a gift for uniting and for inspiring people around a common goal. In one speech, he made everyone believe we could and would travel to the moon, not only travel but reach the moon within a decade, despite the fact that some of the materials needed weren’t even invented yet.
JFK said during the speech:
But why, some say, the moon? Why choose this as our goal? And they may well ask why climb the highest mountain? Why, 35 years ago, fly the Atlantic? Why does Rice play Texas?
‘We choose to go to the moon. We choose to go to the moon in this decade, 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…
Many years ago the great British explorer George Mallory, who was to die on Mount Everest, was asked why did he want to climb it. He said, “Because it is there.”
Well, space is there, and we’re going to climb it, and the moon and the planets are there, and new hopes for knowledge and peace are there. And, therefore, as we set sail we ask God’s blessing on the most hazardous and dangerous and greatest adventure on which man has ever embarked.
It was a speech one hears only once in a lifetime.