by jhwygirl

May 25, 1961:

I believe we possess all the resources and talents necessary. But the facts of the matter are that we have never made the national decisions or marshalled the national resources required for such leadership. We have never specified long-range goals on an urgent time schedule, or managed our resources and our time so as to insure their fulfillment.

Recognizing the head start obtained by the Soviets with their large rocket engines, which gives them many months of leadtime, and recognizing the likelihood that they will exploit this lead for some time to come in still more impressive successes, we nevertheless are required to make new efforts on our own. For while we cannot guarantee that we shall one day be first, we can guarantee that any failure to make this effort will make us last. We take an additional risk by making it in full view of the world, but as shown by the feat of astronaut Shepard, this very risk enhances our stature when we are successful. But this is not merely a race. Space is open to us now; and our eagerness to share its meaning is not governed by the efforts of others. We go into space because whatever mankind must undertake, free men must fully share.

I therefore ask the Congress, above and beyond the increases I have earlier requested for space activities, to provide the funds which are needed to meet the following national goals:
First, I believe that this nation should commit itself to achieving the goal, before this decade is out, of landing a man on the moon and returning him safely to the earth. No single space project in this period will be more impressive to mankind, or more important for the long-range exploration of space; and none will be so difficult or expensive to accomplish. We propose to accelerate the development of the appropriate lunar space craft. We propose to develop alternate liquid and solid fuel boosters, much larger than any now being developed, until certain which is superior. We propose additional funds for other engine development and for unmanned explorations–explorations which are particularly important for one purpose which this nation will never overlook: the survival of the man who first makes this daring flight. But in a very real sense, it will not be one man going to the moon–if we make this judgment affirmatively, it will be an entire nation. For all of us must work to put him there.

JFK gave this speech (above is only a minuscule portion) to a joint Congress in what could effectively be described as his State of the Union assessment, having sized up American from inside the pearly white walls of the White House for four months. The Cold War was in its full glory; the economy, while strong, was showing sign of weakening; and social unrest driven by the civil rights movement was driving to its apex.

Kennedy felt that America’s security was threatened by the Russian space program – Sputnik, first, and then their success in launching a man into space. Kennedy decided that putting all of the United State’s resources behind beating the Russians in their space race, by landing a man on the moon – a tremendous challenge, considering how far behind we were – was best for the nation. The proposal was thought by many to be sheer lunacy.

Just 16 months later, on September 12, 1962, Kennedy gave a second speech on the race to the moon at Rice University, defending both the dedication of government resources and the enormous expense.:

And finally, the space effort itself, while still in its infancy, has already created a great number of new companies, and tens of thousands of new jobs. Space and related industries are generating new demands in investment and skilled personnel, and this city and this State, and this region, will share greatly in this growth. What was once the furthest outpost on the old frontier of the West will be the furthest outpost on the new frontier of science and space. Houston, your City of Houston, with its Manned Spacecraft Center, will become the heart of a large scientific and engineering community. During the next 5 years the National Aeronautics and Space Administration expects to double the number of scientists and engineers in this area, to increase its outlays for salaries and expenses to $60 million a year; to invest some $200 million in plant and laboratory facilities; and to direct or contract for new space efforts over $1 billion from this Center in this City.

To be sure, all this costs us all a good deal of money. This year’s space budget is three times what it was in January 1961, and it is greater than the space budget of the previous eight years combined. That budget now stands at $5,400 million a year–a staggering sum, though somewhat less than we pay for cigarettes and cigars every year. Space expenditures will soon rise some more, from 40 cents per person per week to more than 50 cents a week for every man, woman and child in the United Stated, for we have given this program a high national priority–even though I realize that this is in some measure an act of faith and vision, for we do not now know what benefits await us. But if I were to say, my fellow citizens, that we shall send to the moon, 240,000 miles away from the control station in Houston, a giant rocket more than 300 feet tall, the length of this football field, made of new metal alloys, some of which have not yet been invented, capable of standing heat and stresses several times more than have ever been experienced, fitted together with a precision better than the finest watch, carrying all the equipment needed for propulsion, guidance, control, communications, food and survival, on an untried mission, to an unknown celestial body, and then return it safely to earth, re-entering the atmosphere at speeds of over 25,000 miles per hour, causing heat about half that of the temperature of the sun–almost as hot as it is here today–and do all this, and do it right, and do it first before this decade is out–then we must be bold.

~~~~~
So here America sits, in 2008: in the throes of an illegal – what McCain has said will be 100 years – war in Iraq; the country divided maybe not by race, but by political and religious extremism; and our addiction to oil essentially, in a very backhanded way, funding the very terrorists that attacked our nation on September 11th.

Can we eliminate our need for crude? I don’t think so – at least my unscientific mind can’t imagine, realistically, a Jetson family-style world – but do I think that America can create a world where the bulk of our elementary carbon-fuel based needs (such as electricity and heat and small vehicle transport) can be met with alternative and more efficient means.

If a president can state an impossible goal, from a point so far behind the curve that many can call him crazy, we can harness the power of the wind and the sun to power our homes. If we can put a man on the moon and bring him back to earth in just over 8 years, we can build household transportation that efficiently uses a combination of fuels and newer technology. We can make oil a minor source of our energy need.

This is America. Where is the “can do” mentality from our government – from its citizens? The “can do” mentality that makes or breaks the corporate world and its inhabitants?

Go ahead and laugh. It’s that mentality that holds us back and keeps us beholden to Middle East interests.

America must begin to dream. Today. Tomorrow. Now.

Time’s a-wastin’.

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  1. Point taken, J-girl, I only wonder if you can stretch the space race metaphor to what we face today. The space race was sexy. It involved rockets and testosterone and test pilots. Tom Wolfe wrote a book about it, and Tom Hanks was in that one movie, and rah rah. It was a whole different deal. And, ironically, isn’t the aerospace industry of the 1960s the multi-billion-trillion dollar defense contract industry of today? They built those Apollo rockets, and now it’s precision guided missiles. We are still breathing those fumes from the space race, in the form of the Iraq War. When Bush was selling his war, he was channeling Kennedy: It’s the great challenge of our time! We can win this thing! I know you’re saying that the peak oil challenge is a matter of leadership, and I think that’s true, but I think the rhetoric and the attitude and the posture — our whole way of life — will have to be completely different if we are to cope with this, and I believe it is an open question as to whether Americans are really ready for things to be that different. Also, and critically, the space race involved an enemy, the Russians. This time, the enemy is us.

  2. goof houlihan

    I think you could throw in some WWII rationing/”energy war bonds” strategies too. We are going to ration by price right now, but it’s not so much gas…as it is consumer crap that I’d like to ration. And yes, that might just include the expensive toys of outdoor enthusiasts, eh? Talk about unsustainable!

    I’m not sure that you don’t hedge a little close to “can’t do” S&Co. And it’s not a “way of life” that needs changing as much as a values system. A 100 mpg car, won’t result in a change in our “way of life”.

    I cut this picture out of a Business Week, a family of four sitting in their pool, huge house and wrought iron fence behind them, 300.000 k a year income, with a line from mom that says, “we just don’t feel rich”.

    Well shewt, maybe they should be sent to Africa to live in a grass hut for six months and constantly threatened by starvation, illness and guerrillas.

    I put the picture on the door of my office. I don’t know if people got it, but I let loose with some profanity every time I saw it. Ugly americans personified. You see? It’s not driving to work, or watching tv, or wearing a fur or plastic grocery bags. It’s that we introspection and self criticism, and are too self absorbed to feel as rich as we are.

  3. goof houlihan

    “we lack introspection” sorry, typing too fast

    O wud some pow’r the giftie gie us
    To see irselves as ithers see us.

  4. et

    ” the country divided maybe not by race, but by political and religious extremism;”—
    I would add to this; “CLASS” and the evaporation of the middle class, and the pooling of wealth into the pockets of our citizens-of power.
    In America; Class Is the Isum!
    It is a wedge that pounds the political and religious agendas home.
    Closer to home, some Northside residents have come together to address neighborhood and community concerns.
    The downtown business district is leaning on city officials to shift their “perceived panhandling problem” to nearby residential neighborhoods.
    After a several month process, the panhandling work group and the poverello center have recently announced their plans. They will increase police presence downtown, and open a drop in center for “people with no place to go during the day” next to the 3:16 rescue mission-at the south end of the NORTHSIDE pedestrian overpass.
    When I learned the city’s plan in the Missoulian last week, my first thought was not–I don’t want this in my backyard, but instead, is this the appropriate community response to the issue. My second thought was—If people don’t have a place to go in the day, they don’t have a place to go at night either.
    In Thursdays article, I believe Ms. Hill indicated the Poverello received approximately $250,000 in funding for the first year of day-center operation.
    When I go downtown I see the same 8 or 12 folks panhandling in the (oxford, charlie b’s, and the warden market) triangle. This is the same triangle that has shifted in the last few years from bike shop, trail head, porn in the back of the news stand, and strip joint below the ox. , to what you see there today – and starbucks too!
    In Montana most folks know if you build a house in the woods, you are going to see some bears!
    I wonder how many of the folks from the triangle could be housed and offered treatment services for $250.000?
    I wonder why there are no panhandlers on the north side of the river, like the hip strip? Perhaps its because there are not many businesses serving alcohol over there.
    There are many federal, state and local government policies’s that have led to an increased presence of disadvantaged people downtown. Federal welfare reform enacted 1997 removed most federal financial assistance for the folks we se in the triangle. Federal laws cut off disability benefits for those with substance abuse issues, and defunded state general assistance programs. In 1999 the Montana department of corrections began transferring inmates from other areas to Missoula. Parolees and discharged inmates, were released with a bus ticket to Missoula with the poverello center listed as an address on the discharge plan. Many must remain in the community due to conditions of the probation and parole. In 2000 downtown business associations, The new wal-mart, and the Salvation Army formed an odd alliance -and lobbied city council to enact the real change program in response to rainbow family impact. The working group, headed by councilman Engen, used a neighborhood grant to secure funds to start the program.
    In recent years, Peter Hance, the now defunct-ex director of the Missoula housing authority, was spending $25,000 a month in community housing money to pay interest on a real estate deal gone wild. And, just last year in the biggest panhandle in downtown’s history, redevelopment agencies and city hall grabbed millions for First interstate bank downtown, by declaring the block urban blight.
    Who figured out that the bank was more blighted than the white pine site, or the area around the 3:16 building?
    Now, last week, we are the city working group on panhandling has identified a possible cause of vagrant behaviors downtown. They say it is that these poor people just have no place to go during the day. The day center is to open in august
    It would appear that at this point in the process, the city’s working group, and the Poverello center’s management have already decided the “best approach” for the community’s “panhandling problem”—and associated issues.
    It would also appear that unintentional side affects of the convergence of the city’s plan, and the Poverello plan, is that there is a possibility that the whole affair will simply shift the issue from the downtown business district to the Northside/Westside residential neighborhoods.
    I feel it is unfortunate that the city working-group and Poverello center-staff did not chose to invite more of the community to the table at the beginning of the process. But, that is simply one mans view; I suppose the downtown business owners are pleased they are getting a well-orchestrated response to their complaints. “Where is the “can do” mentality from our government – from its citizens? The “can do” mentality that makes or breaks the corporate world and its inhabitants?”>>>
    It may be happening in Missoula tomorrow night. Come on down and share your thoughts.
    (Dear Neighbors,Mayor John Engen will convene a meeting between Poverello center staff, the Northside/Westside neighborhood and the Heart of Missoula neighborhood to discuss and hear neighborhood concerns about the Poverello’s new proposed drop in center planned to open its doors in August at 506 Toole Ave. The neighborhood meeting will be held Wednesday, June 25, at 7:30 pm at the Stensrud Building located at 314 N. 1st St. W.
    Mayor Engen is convening this meeting to ensure that the discussion begins between the Poverello and the neighborhood, as he is aware of and cares about the neighborhood’s concerns. Please pass this message on to other folks in your neighborhood.
    Thank you for your participation.
    August should prove to be an interesting month for the Northside this year. With the Hells Angles thundering through the tunnel, and the new day center operating at the south end of the pedestrian overpass, getting to and from work could be an adventure. If the north hills have a wildfire, we might just have to tunnel out.
    Cheers! Your-neighbor. et

  5. Shakespeare, I get what you are saying – ‘rocketing’ our cars to more efficiency isn’t sexy. You’re probably right…and I wonder if that isn’t due to our failures in the education system? In a society that champions belly-button piercings over good grades in science and math? What priorities!

    I also – rather poorly, I might add – was trying to make a comparison between the Cold War and the war in the Iraq AND OPEC itself – the stranglehold both seem to have on us and its affects on national security. Alas…if I were only more skilled with my prose…..

    Goof – I’ve been waiting for people to start yelling “buy American” – – isn’t that part of this bigger picture here in the fuel situation? American’s wanting cheaper shit?

    A friend pointed out to me the irony of our situation: We love big cars and drive everywhere, and China gets along on bikes and 50,000,000 people using human power to do manufacturing. NOW, we drive along on bikes because we can’t afford fuel and they use machines (i.e., fuel) to make us cheap stuff PLUS they now have money to buy fuel for the cars they can now afford.

    Full circle.

    And et.? Yep – “class” would have been a spot-on point to make in that post.

  6. Mayor of Mayhem

    Jgirl, We are our own worst enemies. I once had a Philosophy prof. tell me “everything is ok as long as we have carpeted floor mats in our cars” Meaning nobody really cares what happens in the world as long as thier comfort level isn’t reduced.
    The drilling isn’t going to solve sh#t. The oil companies already have more leases than they can drill. That’s just about getting all the corrupt laws passed while George is still thier boy. Over half of the Alaska pipeline oil goes over seas, so don’t tell me drilling in anwar will do anything but give the chinese more affordable oil. Why don’t we let the oil companies have whatever they want as long as they commit to domestic sales only. Trouble is China will pay as much as it costs, so the free market principle means they will get your oil.
    I love to hear crazy people like JFK and Edison and Henry Ford, tell us what is possible. It’s time to roll the dice America. Is America going to turn into all the other ex-empires or are we going to lead the way into the future.

  7. Geez, goof, careful. Your inner progressive was showing.

    I’m not sure I agree with S&C’s view of the space race analogy. While he’s ultimately right in the speech’s outcome — a bloated, near useless agency (NASA), whose best tech development end up as weapons — that’s assuming the speech caused the result.

    The speech just whipped people into a frenzy to accept the costs of the program.

    There’s no doubt that the massive infrastructure change needed to wean ourselves from oil dependency is going to cost money. I don’t think it’s a bad idea to tap patriotism and the peculialr American ideals of self-sacrifice and industry to nudge some support for the redirection of funding.

    But S&C is right in that we don’t want a space-program-like effort. We don’t want a new bureaucracy. We don’t want billions in taxpayer money disappearing in failed, esoteric projects.

    Probably a better model would be the New Deal. That and generous tax incentives and penalties to spur on the market to build and profit from the new infrastructure.

    In the end, IMHO, I think it pays for itself. Granting gov’t loans, say, to homeowners to upgrade their heating and appliance efficiency, would not only pay for themselves, bring revenue to the gov’t (for assistance for low-income families in improving their energy efficiency?), but should also save the homeowners money, too. Building more rail lines would mean less maintenance required on streets and highways. If flying becomes an expensive rarity, then we’ll spend less on airports, etc.

    anyhoo…

  8. I hate to be such a pessimist, but American history teaches us that people don’t change until it hurts their pocketbook or someone twists their arm. Well, we’ve maxed out our credit, stretched our supply lines, and used up our foreign good will. What a predicament! We’re starting to see a change in America’s energy habits, but I think it’s still going to take some arm twisting to get Americans on the right track. Maybe we’ll get the right people in office by November to institute some progressive energy ideas (not merely reactive).

    Good comments guys.

    Goof-
    Right on! If we were paying for the War with war bonds and domestic rationing of goods, we probably wouldn’t be in Iraq. Extend the bond idea to energy and we’d be breathing greener in a fraction of the time.

    Jay-
    I’m a big fan of the trains. I’ll be on that first train into Missoula from the Root.

  9. “…American history teaches us that people don’t change until it hurts their pocketbook or someone twists their arm.”

    Not sure I agree. The building of roads, electricity, plumbing, bridges, and telephone wires went without too much of a fuss.

    Maybe it’s better to say, people don’t change if it hurts the pocketbooks of influentual industries.

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