John Fitzgerald Kennedy (JFK) conveyed the importance of exploring space and winning the Space Race in a public address on September 12, 1962, at Rice University in Houston, Texas. He spoke of the desire and importance of placing a man on the moon before the end of the decade. The 35th president of the United States was assassinated in 1963, before seeing his space efforts come to fruition in 1969 when Apollo 11 landed on the moon.
Introduction of Speech
JFK begins his Rice Stadium Moon Speech by thanking a number of individuals, including Vice President Lyndon B. Johnson and Rice University President Kenneth Pitzer, who had granted JFK the title of honorary visiting professor. President Pitzer had played an integral role by creating the country's first space science program. JFK expresses his gratitude in being made an honorary visiting professor. He commends Rice University, the city of Houston and the state of Texas for possessing three virtues -- knowledge, progress and strength -- and notes that as a country we are in need of all three virtues.
Beginning Body of Speech
JFK notes that the country faces dichotomies of "change and challenge," "hope and fear" and "knowledge and ignorance." JFK alludes to the Space Race by saying "The greater our knowledge increases, the greater our ignorance unfolds." He speaks of advances made throughout history including the wheel, printing press, steam engine, electricity, telephones, automobiles, planes and penicillin. He likens the past 50,000 years of to half a century to prove the amount of advancement that has occurred over a relatively short amount of time. JFK references the country as on the brink of "reaching the stars" and recognizes that the fast pace of advancement brings forth "new ills as it dispels old." He enforces that struggle and reward are related and that one cannot exist without the other. He comments, "This country was conquered by those who moved forward -- and so will space."
End Body of Speech
The tone of JFK's speech turns persuasive throughout the second part of the body. He explains that certain fates of the United States depend on showing leadership in space exploration. JFK explains that we choose to go to the moon because it is a necessary challenge and part of our goal to lead as a nation. He highlights how close we are to achieving such goals by mentioning the testing of a Saturn C-1 booster rocket, the Saturn missile, satellites and the Mariner spacecraft. JFK points out that the space industry has created new jobs for Americans and puts the space budget in perspective by showing it is less that the annual spending on cigarettes and cigars.
Conclusion of Speech
JFK begins his conclusion by giving a visual of a giant rocket and its mission. He jokes, "I'm the one who is doing all the work, so we just want you to stay cool for a minute." He speaks with a positive outlook in stating that the space mission to the moon will occur during the 1960s and commends Rice University's role as part of national effort toward putting a man on the moon. JFK concludes with a quote from Mt. Everest climber George Mallory who had responded "Because it is there," when asked why he wanted to climb the mountain. JFK states, "Well, space is there and we're going to climb it." He ends by asking for God's blessing on the journey and thanking his audience.
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