|Kennedy delivers policy address on
before 35,000 at Rice Stadium, September 12, 1962
"Why go to the moon?" he asks. "Why does Rice play Texas?"
On a sultry September day in 1962,
President John F. Kennedy traveled to Rice to deliver a major address. Rice had
owned the land upon which the Johnson Space Center had recently been constructed, and had
donated it to the federal government for that purpose. Rice had just established
the nation's first academic Department of Space Science. Now it was time to
get the space program in high gear. In deference to its contribution, JFK chose Rice
as his venue for an announcement to the nation.
Thousands of schoolchildren (the writer among them)
were bused to the stadium for the momentous occasion, and a carnival atmosphere
prevailed. It was the peak time of his administration, a few weeks before the Cuban
Missle Crisis, and Kennedy was in an ebullient mood. "There is no strife, no
prejudice, no national conflict in outer space as yet," he said. "Its hazards
are hostile to us all. Its conquest deserves the best of all mankind, and its opportunity
for peaceful cooperation may never come again. 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?"
The Rice students in the crowd cheered wildly, the schoolkids
taken somewhat aback. "We choose to go to the moon. We choose to go to the moon in
this decade and do the 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..."
America, of course, did win the moon race. And on a foggy
October evening in 1962, Rice and Texas fought to a 14-14 tie.
of JFK Rice Stadium speech ...
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