Wednesday, May 25, 2011

May 25, 1961 - Kennedy's Reach for the Moon

President Kennedy Speaks to Congress on May 25, 1961

Before there was Martin Luther King’s “I have a dream speech” there was John F. Kennedy’s “We have a dream” address to the nation that set us on our way to reaching the moon. On May 25, 1961 before a Joint Session of Congress and just weeks after Alan Shepard’s suborbital flight, President John F. Kennedy set a course for the moon.  Kennedy’s speech was more direct than passionate. There was no “we should” or “we will try”, but a commitment from the President on behalf of the nation to send humans to the moon and return them safely back to the Earth.  His words challenged all of us to think and dream bigger. As Kennedy made his pitch to Congress, he wasn’t speaking for some of us or to some of us, but on behalf of all of us. While his words spoke of sending “men” to the moon, they would be carried there by a country united in purpose. His challenge was not open-ended, it did not allow for compromise, obstacles, delays, or shifting political winds.  It was firm and set a target date to complete the goal by the end of the decade. There was no ambiguity in the message. We would do what had not been done and reach for the stars. It sounded much like the first steps of turning science fiction into fact and the beginning of humankind’s journey other worlds.  It would be the journey that would test us technically and financially, but an endeavor that generations from now would look back on much like the primitive voyage of Columbus and say that this is where the discovery of new worlds started.