JFK: We choose to go to the Moon

In the fall of 1962, when the USA was far behind the Soviet Union in its space program, JFK held his rivetting “We choose to go to the Moon” speech at Rice University in Houston, Texas, proclaiming space to be the new frontier. I’d like to highlight two excerpts, with the minutes in the video indicated so you can read along as you watch.

See min. 4:35-6:20 and min. 8:40-9:17, text experpts below

4:35-6:20: “If this capsule history of our progress teaches us anything, it is that man, in his quest for knowledge and progress, is determined and cannot be deterred. The exploration of space will go ahead, whether we join in it or not, and it is one of the great adventures of all time, and no nation which expects to be the leader of other nations can expect to stay behind in this race for space.

Those who came before us made certain that this country rode the first waves of the industrial revolution, the first waves of modern invention, and the first wave of nuclear power, and this generation does not intend to founder in the backwash of the coming age of space. We mean to be a part of it–we mean to lead it. For the eyes of the world now look into space to the moon and to the planets beyond. And we have vowed that we shall not see it governed by a hostile flag of conquest, but by a banner of freedom and peace. We avow that we shall not see space filled with weapons of mass destruction, but with instruments of knowledge and understanding. Yet the vows of this nation can only be fulfilled if we and this nation are first, and therefore we intend to be first.”

8:40-9:17: “We choose to go to the moon. We choose to go to the moon… (interrupted by applause) 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.”

Trivia: Kennedy said that the year’s space budget stood at five billion four hundred million dollars, calling that “a staggering sum” (!) but saying that the American people were spending more than that on cigarettes and cigars (!!)

Full text


The lioness of Iran

Thomas Pierce, Weekend Edition, NPR, via 3quarksdaily:
“NPR’s Davar Ardalan interviewed Simin Behbahani, Iran’s national poet, today from Tehran. She’s 82 years-old and one of the most respected figures in modern Iran. She recites two poems inspired by recent events — one dedicated to the people of Iran and another to Neda, the woman whose death during the protests was viewed by millions on the web and on TV.”
There’s a very interesting, frustrated comment by “Young Iranian” on the NPR blog, who calls Western empathy “hypocritical” and “politically driven”, because it comes now, late, when Iranians protest. I’d say we Westerners have learned to be selective about who we empathize with, and crises are what focus our attention. You could be cynical about it, but why? I really think Iran has make its way on its own.

Clara Boone, pioneer

When I was a child in the late 60s, a family friend, a descendent of Daniel Boone, came round one day for tea. Clara Boone was a teacher at a public school in DC. The local public schools were deteriorating in those days, kids were really tough, and the teachers were struggling to adapt.

We were sitting around an elegant little table drinking Earl Grey, when “Miss Boone” as I called her told us this horrific story, in her gentle voice: The previous week one of her middle school students, a boy of maybe 14, had cornered her in the hallway during the break between classes … unzipped his pants … and pissed on her.

The school took disciplinary measures, of course, but then… life goes on. Can you imagine having to face that class day after day? I was totally shocked by Miss Boone’s story, but her calm resolve to keep on keeping on made a huge impression on me. She was so patient, so courageous. I don’t really know how the story continued, so I wonder about it now. She went on teaching, sure. But I wonder if she really got the support she needed?

And what about the other students?

Question: Heroes or victims of circumstance?

It’s Memorial Day weekend, a national holiday dedicated to the soldiers who have fallen serving their country. By definition, that makes them heroes. Or are fallen soldiers victims of circumstance? Soldiers have a very important job to do, and we ask them to do their duty for us. Does doing that duty make them heroes? What exactly are we celebrating here? This is an issue I admit to being very confused about, as you can tell from my muddleheaded podcast.

What do you think: Are we right in asking soldiers to do their duty? Are they heroes or victims of circumstance?

Please post your response with a link to this question post, or comment.

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The truth

wallace-mccainSunday was election day here in Bavaria. There are a lot of people who think that this state doesn‘t have a democracy, since it‘s been ruled by the same party for so long that public servants are not seen to be serving anyone but themselves. …
I’ve been thinking about what makes democracy tick as I read a book by David Foster Wallace, the most brilliant writer of my generation in many ways, who killed himself on September 12th, losing his 20-year fight against depression. This book is called „McCain’s Promise“, and it’s about what makes people care enough to get involved in politics. According to Wallace, it comes down to straight talk. Continue reading The truth