About John F. Kennedy

John Fitzgerald Kennedy delivered this speech from Rice University in Houston, Texas on September 12, 1962. He had not yet ascended to the presidency, but he was a mere professor. He was asked to deliver this speech as an honorary visiting professor.

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As he spoke to a crowd of 40,00 people, many of whom were still school children, he spoke about the space race, why he chose to join, and the vast amounts of technological progress that took place over the previous hundred years. He gave this example, “No man can fully grasp how far and how fast we have come, but condense, if you will, the 50,000 years of man??s recorded history in a time span of but a half a century.

Stated in these terms, we know very little about the first 40 years, except at the end of them advanced man had learned to use the skins of animals to cover them. Then about 10 years ago, under this standard, man emerged from his caves to construct other kinds of shelter. Only five years ago man learned to write and use a cart with wheels. Christianity began less than two years ago. The printing press came this year, and then less than two months ago, during this whole 50-year span of human history, the steam engine provided a new source of power.” As he spoke, he explained how much we have developed, and how far we have come in such a short amount of time.

This speech was revolutionary, for it sparked the beginning of space exploration in the US. Before this time, the general population had been ignorant of the fact that there are planets, space, beyond what we know as “home.” We had been ignorant of space exploration, the idea that one day, we may be able to walk on the moon. For if just one man walks upon the surface of the moon, that experience could be shared among many. The thought that all this could happen, one day, was, frankly, scary to some. It meant that other things would change. The simple ideas of the past would be no more, and we would move on to concepts of the future.

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