11. Presidents Day Blog. Part 4

11. Presidents Day Blog. Part 4

4. John F. Kennedy -- The Best of Our Energies

John F. Kennedy.
John F. Kennedy.
"No nation which expects to be the leader of other nations can expect to stay behind in this race for space...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, and the others, too."
-- John F. Kennedy

In October 1957, the Soviet Union stunned the world by successfully launching the Sputnik 1 satellite into orbit, marking the start of the modern Space Age. The United States realized that they were no longer on level footing with the Soviet Union technologically and needed to step it up. Therefore, in July 1958, President Eisenhower established NASA to combat the precieved threat to national security known as the "Sputnik crisis". The American space program was born.

In 1960, John F. Kennedy was elected president. As a senetor, JFK was opposed to the space program. In fact, early in his presidency, JFK was set to dismatle plans for the Apollo program altogether. However, he soon realized that it was his Duty for America to win the space race and pull ahead of the Soviets because, "No nation which expects to be the leader of other nations can expect to stay behind in this race for space." President Kennedy felt that to fall behind in the space race was to fall behind as a world power. In order to accomplish such a monumental task, it was up to President Kennedy to inspire the nation. In September 1962 during a speech given at Rice University, he proclaimed, "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, and the others, too." President Kennedy made the goal of landing on the moon the primary focus of American "energies and skills" in order to symbolically win the space race.

Although he never got to see his vision realized, JFK's inspirational words were brought to life when Apollo 11 landed on the moon July 20, 1969 and secured America's role as a leader in future space exploration.