Visit to the Kennedy Library

I visited the John F. Kennedy Library yesterday.  I’ve got a friend in from out of town, which is always a great motivator for doing some of the touristy things in your own city that you never do in day-to-day life.  The library is smaller than I’d imagined, but very impressive.  We took about 3 hours go to through it.  I love history and especially historical artifacts, so seeing the notes with Kennedy’s handwriting and some of the recordings I’d not heard before was great.  Two of my favorite tidbits, which my astute friend pointed out, were in the “Moon Shot” portion of the museum.

One was on a draft of his famous speech he delivered at Rice University in Houston during which he set the goal for the United States to go to the moon by 1970.  The draft includes, typed,

Why choose this as our goal? And they may well ask why climb the highest mountain? Why, 35 years ago, fly the Atlantic?

Kennedy added a handwritten note above,

Why does Rice play Texas?

As a Rice (graduate) alum and vigorous UT football detractor, I’ve always found this line apropos and humorous.  It was neat to find out that Kennedy added it himself, and to see the note that added it.

The other interesting tidbit was that, despite all of Kennedy’s rhetorical flourishes calling for American scientific exploration, he flatly and openly told NASA administrators that he didn’t care about space.  He cared about beating the Russians.  He pointed out that it was fairly useless to spend $7 Billion to arrive at the moon 6 months after the Soviets, and if that was to be the outcome, he’d scale back NASA.  There’s tape of the NASA administrator (James Webb) pleading with exasperation that the US should explore space for the reasons Kennedy himself said in speeches (leadership in space sciences), and Kennedy basically says “that’s nice, but I’m in this to win against the Russians”.  Fascinating stuff.

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