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.
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 will be renewed next season. 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 did over 25 years ago.
“But why, some say, the moon? Why choose this as our goal? And they may as well ask: climb the highest mountain? Why 35 years ago fly the Atlantic? Why does Rice play Texas? We choose to go to the moon in this decade, not because that will be easy, because it will be hard — because that goal will serve to organize and measure the best of our energies and skills — because that challenge is one we are willing to accept, one we are unwilling to postpone, and one we intend to win.”
— 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.
Nevertheless, the question John F. Kennedy asked over two decades ago has become in artifact in Boston, Massachusetts. And in a few months, nearly 2,000 miles away, the college football rivalry he once questioned will be back in full swing.