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John F. Kennedy
AP Photo/Dick Strobel

Somewhere inside the John. F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum sits one of the most memorable speeches in United States history. It was delivered by JFK himself and “We choose to go to the Moon” will forever be a famous tagline for the 35th President of the United States. However, there’s something about the document that proves once again he was a major sports fan.

The Moon Speech was delivered on September 12, 1962 at Rice Stadium in Houston, Texas. While he trying to persuade the American people to support the Apollo program at Rice University, John Fitzgerald “Jack” Kennedy decided to ask the ultimate football question just before he delivered the big punchline.

“Why does Rice play Texas?” Not only was it legitimate question in the heat of the gridiron rivalry, but it wasn’t exactly planned. President John F. Kennedy actually wrote that in by hand.

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Texas-Rice Football Rivalry

At the time, the question was perfect. The Rice Owls, a much smaller school, had a 5-4 record over the mighty Texas Longhorns in the previous nine meetings before the speech, and the two programs actually tied each other, 14-14, in 1962.

However, since 1963, the University of Texas has gone 42-2. That streak of games played started in 1914 and ended in 1996. The two programs have faced off 12 more times since — all wins by the Longhorns — and they haven’t played since 2015.

The good news is the lost college football rivalry in the state of Texas will be renewed. Rice and Texas are set to play September 14, 2019 at NRG Stadium in Houston. The Longhorns will be heavy favorites, of course, so we can start asking why the Owls agreed to play it again in the first place, much like President Kennedy’s speech did over 55 years ago.

JFK Moon Speech

“We set sail on this new sea because there is new knowledge to be gained, and new rights to be won, and they must be won and used for the progress of all people. For space science, like nuclear science and all technology, has no conscience of its own. Whether it will become a force for good or ill depends on man, and only if the United States occupies a position of pre-eminence can we help decide whether this new ocean will be a sea of peace or a new terrifying theater of war. I do not say that we should or will go unprotected against the hostile misuse of space any more than we go unprotected against the hostile use of land or sea, but I do say that space can be explored and mastered without feeding the fires of war, without repeating the mistakes that man has made in extending his writ around this globe of ours.

“There is no strife, no prejudice, no national conflict in outer space as yet. Its hazards are hostile to us all. Its conquest deserves the best of all mankind, and its opportunity for peaceful cooperation may never come again. But why, some say, the Moon? Why choose this as our goal? And they may well ask, why climb the highest mountain? Why, 35 years ago, fly the Atlantic? Why does Rice play Texas?

“We choose to go to the Moon! We choose to go to the Moon…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 we intend to win, and the others, too

— President John F. Kennedy

Of course, JFK pretty much wanted a space race competition with the Soviet Union during the speech, and made the Moon landing a priority. Then, it happened in 1969 with NASA’s famous Apollo 11 mission with astronauts Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin and Michael Collins.

Nevertheless, the question John F. Kennedy asked over two decades ago has become in artifact in Boston, Massachusetts. And now, nearly 2,000 miles away at a football stadium in the City of Houston — the home of the Johnson Space Center — the college football rivalry he once questioned will set sail on a new frontier once again.

The fact the POTUS, in the middle of talking about our space program and space exploration, threw out a college football reference is still crazy.

READ MORE: Ranking the 25 Most Heated Rivalries in College Football

Author placeholder image About the author:
With over 10 years of sports writing experience, Brett has covered some of the top local, regional, and national sporting events in the Heartland for both print and digital platforms. He is a graduate of Kansas State University and resides in Austin, Texas.
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