"We choose to go to the moon." Today 1962.

September 12, 2018

Continuing this series of reflective posts designed to bring nostalgia to life in support of World Alzheimer's Month.

 

For those living with a dementia, bringing memories back to life can be very therapeutic. For those without, reflecting on history can be both interesting, and enlightening.

 

So, Rice Stadium, Houston, Texas. 12th September 1962.

 

President JFK gives a speech, a speech now known for its tagline: "We choose to go to the moon!"

 

 photo credit: Irish Central

 

In the speech, (which you can watch here) you see the famous man in action. It is 18 minutes long though, so make a cup of tea and put your feet up. It's worth it.

 

What he says is powerful and you can see why many American People were inspired by him. For me though, it's impressive as much for the tools he uses when he speaks.

 

He breaks down human history into a fifty year period, with penicillin being discovered only last week...  he uses language to connect to the pioneering spirit of the American People and he positions space as the final frontier, all hugely powerful tools.

 

He also builds the speech using groups of three.

 

The power of three represents the strength of a triangle, both in physical structure, but also in the way we use language. 

 

After his pre-amble, Kennedy launches into the following, immediately falling into a tidy rhythm:

 

"We meet at a college noted for knowledge, in a city noted for progress, in a State noted for strength, and we stand in need of all three, for we meet in an hour of change and challenge, in a decade of hope and fear, in an age of both knowledge and ignorance. The greater our knowledge increases, the greater our ignorance unfolds."

 

He then launches into the fifty-year history analogy creating an image of manageable segments, a sense of wonder at recent inventions while setting the stage for discoveries yet to come.

 

"This is a breathtaking pace, and such a pace cannot help but create new ills as it dispels old... new ignorance, new problems, new dangers."

 the power of three.

 

 

He uses three waves:

 

"Those who came before us made certain that this country rode the waves of the industrial revolutions, the first waves of modern invention, and the first wave of nuclear power."

 

He explains that it will cost vast sums of money, 50 cents for every man, woman and child in America, every week! In today's money, that would be $4.20 per person per week, huge amounts of money. He says it might not work, but suggests that if they don't, others (Russia) may get there first, and that could be a threat to national and global security.

 

You can see and feel his presence by listening to the rises and falls, the pauses, the light humour and straight talking. The "We choose to go to the moon" soundbite, which he says twice in a row for emphasis, captures what is widely regarded as a brilliantly written and delivered speech.

 

To close, he creates a powerful sense of mission:

 

Many years ago the great British explorer George Mallory, who was to die on Mount Everest, was asked why did he want to climb it. He said, "Because it is there."Well, space is there, and we're going to climb it, and the moon and the planets are there, and new hopes for knowledge and peace are there. And, therefore, as we set sail we ask God's blessing on the most hazardous and dangerous and greatest adventure on which man has ever embarked."

 

To reminisce or reflect, perhaps print out a picture of Kennedy, and play the speech on the TV or a computer. It may help prompt memories. The link to the video is here again.

 

Ask about America, the 1960's, President Kennedy, Jackie and the wider family. You might be surprised at where the conversation goes!

 

Thanks for reading, and I hope you enjoy today's bit of history. Let me know how you get on.

 

Jeremy  

 

 

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