image courtesy Bob Gomel of Life Magazine

There is relatively little overlap between people who watch football and those who read this blog. And so it may come as news to you that UT beat Rice last night 42 to 28. To be perfectly honest, I don't care.

That said, it is interesting to note that the game occurred exactly 53 years after John F. Kennedy gave his "We Choose To Go To The Moon Speech" in Houston. On September 12, 1962 the President took to the podium at Rice Stadium to convince the American people that they should dedicate themselves to do something that seemed nearly impossible at the time - land a man on the moon in a little over eight years:

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?  

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...

The above text is the version that is reprinted in most articles about the speech and what is heard in most documentaries. You hear the audience cheer when Kennedy declares, "We Choose to go to the moon." That narrative makes sense. The President speaks an inspirational line and those listening applaud in support. Unfortunately that's not what they're cheering about. In the reprinting of the speech, a line has been removed.

Here is what Kennedy actually said:

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 in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard...

The inside joke about Rice playing the University of Texas was one that was appreciated by the audience that day that included many Rice students. They understood that in these contests, Rice usually doesn't win. Their applause in response to that throw-away line about the difficulty of traveling to the moon is what is misinterpreted as applause about choosing to go to the moon. Later in the speech you hear the audience cheer again as Kennedy make a joke about how hot it is in Texas in September. You can watch an excerpt of the speech here that includes the audience reaction to the line about Rice playing Texas and the heat.

It's understandable why the line is so often removed. It doesn't make much sense outside of Texas and I suppose it diminishes somewhat the rhetorical power of the line that immediately follows. Still, it's another good example of the intertwined histories of Texas and American spaceflight.

And speaking of the history of American spaceflight, less than six years later the impossible was achieved when Apollo 11 landed on the moon in July of 1969. But by then the impossible had already been achieved. In October of 1965 Rice beat Texas 20 to 17.