Did Kennedy flub his moon speech?

“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”

“other things” ? What kind of a line is that in a presidential speech? What were “the other things” ? Did Kennedy mess up this iconic line in his speech?

The “other things” refer to the items listed in the previous paragraph.

From the speech on September 12, 1962 [emphasis mine]"

The ‘other things’ were climbing Mt. Everest, Lindbergh flying solo across the Atlantic Ocean, and Rice playong Texas (apparently a joke about Rice’s record).

No, it only sounds that way when quoted out of context like this (which it often is). In the context of the original speech, where he had just been talking about the other things, it made sense and sounded fine.

I’m willing to accept the explanations given, but having read the text, and listened to the speech, it just sounds like he should have said something else but could not remember what it was and filled in with “the other things”. The line as spoken just doesn’t sound lilke the quality of a presidential speech.

Is there any documentation of the speech as written, as opposed to as spoken?

Most of the address seems to be pretty much another mundane “this is a stop, I have to say something, let me read it and get on to the next place” kind of speech. Was it meant to be as historic as it became?

(and does anybody know how I can edit the title of this thread where I mispelled “speech”?)

Hmm. I always thought JFK had said, “We choose to go to the moon and play tiddlywinks.”

Yes, here is a link to an image of the typewritten speech, as released to the media. Now, it’s possible that this was typed to match the speech as delivered, but I suspect that you’re incorrect about him having “flubbed” it. (And how can you call the speech both “mundane” and “historic”?)

Also - keep in mind (I’m guessing) he didn’t know it was going to be historic.

It could have been like Reagan with war on drugs or Nixon with war on cancer - if we had actually accomplished any of those things.

No, I don’t think it was.

That is probably the norm for “historic” speeches, however. It is clear, for instance, that neither Lincoln nor his audience expected the Gettysburg address to be “historic” and it was practically written on eh back of an envelope during his train journey to the battlefield. Most historic events are only recognized as such long after they actually happen.

Can we please stomp this myth into the ground once and for all?

Well, whether or not that is a myth that he wrote it on the train (and your quote hardly constitutes proof to the contrary, but seems quite speculative), it remains the case that neither Lincoln nor his audience at the time took this to be an especially historic occasion, or even an especially good speech.

It pretty clearly was. If you go to the next page (page 4), near the bottom is a short paragraph where he must have had some small problem, because it reads:
“I am the one doing all the work, so just stay cool for a minute. (laughter)”

Last hijack, I promise.

The evidence is that Lincoln’s political supporters praised the speech highly and his political enemies derided it. You might as well judge a speech by Obama by examining what Fox News and Daily Kos thought of it the next day. Wills’ article is a reflection of his book on the subject, which tried to cut through the thick layers of nonsense that have accreted to the speech, even by many historians.

As long as we’re busting myths, let’s make sure no one still believes that Kennedy said “I am a jelly doughnut” when addressing an audience in Berlin!

The President going to the site of a the largest battle fought in a war that was still going on? Lincoln knew damn well how important this occasion was.

It’s also not true that Lincoln surprised people by the short length of his speech. It was not supposed to be a long speech. Everett was scheduled to deliver the main oration, which he did. Lincoln was scheduled to deliver the “dedicatory remarks” - he was expected to deliver just a short speech. The only surprise was that his short speech turned out to be so powerful.

The speech was given at Rice. The two schools had, and still have, a pretty fierce football rivalry which doesn’t tend to go well for Rice.

Thank you for posting that. I’ve always heard the soundbite, never the larger context. (OTOH, I was never bothered by “the other things”. I just presumed he was talking about other difficult projects, and didn’t need to specify them.

I think it’s possible for a sentence to be technically correct and yet sound silly.* The first person I ever heard point this out was my high school German teacher, herself a German, who indicated that she and her peers had found Kennedy’s line to be at least mildly amusing.

*Tea baggers, anyone?

I like how Kennedy is claiming Everest (first successfully climbed by a New Zealander and a Nepalese) as something that “we” Americans did.

…and yes, in the context of that speech he clearly does mean Americans.

I guess you could read it that way.

I always read it as a general “we” and generic tall mountains, rather than Everest in particular. And not necessarily even summitting them but even daring to try. In the general context of the speech, it makes sense in a “humanity striving for greater and greater feats” kind of way.