May 25, 1961. That day was a turning point in the history of the United States. That was the day President John F. Kennedy presented a monumental speech before Congress, wherein he announced the United States would be sending a man to the moon within the decade. Here are some excerpts from that speech. They are powerful lessons in vision.
He laid out a very clear vision and a deadline.
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.
President Kennedy made no bones about the efforts, cost, and sacrifice it would take to make it happen.
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.
He acknowledged that we were starting from behind, but the key here is that we would not STAY there.
To be sure, we are behind, and will be behind for some time in manned flight. But we do not intend to stay behind, and in this decade, we shall make up and move ahead.
He stressed the need for full commitment.
If we are to go only half way, or reduce our sights in the face of difficulty, in my judgment it would be better not to go at all.
This decision demands a major national commitment of scientific and technical manpower, material and facilities, and the possibility of their diversion from other important activities where they are already thinly spread. It means a degree of dedication, organization and discipline which have not always characterized our research and development efforts. It means we cannot afford undue work stoppages, inflated costs of material or talent, wasteful interagency rivalries, or a high turnover of key personnel.
New objectives and new money cannot solve these problems. They could in fact, aggravate them further--unless every scientist, every engineer, every serviceman, every technician, contractor, and civil servant gives his personal pledge that this nation will move forward, with the full speed of freedom, in the exciting adventure of space.
President Kennedy knew that Americans had what it would take to make the vision a reality. What he says here is powerful.
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 marshaled 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.
And he knew that a victory for one
was a victory for all who helped make it happen.
Can you imagine the planning sessions that took place as they developed the space program? Perhaps they went something like this.
All right, our mission is to send men to the moon. We have less than ten years to do it. We’ll stack three refinery-sized fuel tanks on top of each other and attach a tiny metal “tent” to the pinnacle. This will hold three men with no room to spare. We will put them in spacesuits and place a glass bubble over their heads. We’ll strap them into the tiny metal tent in a reclining position, give them a full and complex instrument panel, and set the refinery-sized fuel tanks on fire.
Do we have any volunteers?
Several eager hands are raised.
The tanks will disengage one by one and fall away as they propel further and further into space. To build this rocket, we first have to build a 52-story assembly building. We must formulate the fuels. We will be using computers the size of box cars. We will lay railroad tracks so the various pieces can be brought in from far and near. These pieces from diverse sources will need to fit together perfectly. Every rivet counts. We will engineer and develop every component because today, none of them exist.
And oh, by the way, no one has ever been to the moon before, so we have to make our own map to get there. And we have to time the trip in explicit detail, down to the second. We don’t really know what the atmosphere of the moon is like, but the President says we will land a man on the moon within ten years, and we’re going to do it. Failure is not an option.
So they set out to do the impossible. And they did it. Why? Because they had a very real and compelling vision. And they were committed to do whatever was necessary to make it happen.
This is the power of a vision.
We have no idea what we can accomplish
until we get a firm grip on a clear and compelling vision –
and commit to making it happen.
Click here to listen to a recent Strength Leader telecast regarding Vision.
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