In 1962, President John F Kennedy made a public address at Rice University Stadium in Texas that became known as the 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, because the 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 which we intend to win.”
The most inspirational part of the speech, the sensational and illogical part is the fact that it is totally idiotic. The US did not need to go to the moon. There’s not a lot to do there except to stick a flag into the white sand. They needed to take the billions of dollars invested in the Apollo Program and use it elsewhere.
Those were the days when racial tension between whites and blacks was at its most intense. Dr Martin Luther King started organizing civil rights marches. The Soviets began building the Berlin Wall. The invasion of Cuba failed. The Soviet Union was openly conducting nuclear experiments. You read all this and you ask yourself, why did they have to go to the moon?
The fact is that they shot for the stars.
The fact is that it caused them to look up, to believe in something bigger than themselves, to look for a purpose so unattainable that the only way of getting there is by working together. Where will this take us, they asked themselves, where will this take us. The answers were, of course, that it really doesn’t matter where they go as long as it’s far.
So I ask again: Anyone out there got an idea?
We are a people with fertile imaginations, inventors in our very souls, with unlimited capabilities. Spark our imaginations, give us a challenge that stretches us and we’ll bring the tools, the blueprints and the yellow safety helmets, ready to start assembling the apparatus.
Believe in us, otherwise how do we believe in ourselves. Kick us in the butt, how else will we begin to run? Try to get more out of us, because we really don’t have much to lose. And most importantly ask us about our 10-year plan, what do we want to accomplish in this decade?
In another 10 years, we’ll rank first for mathematics worldwide. In 10 years the World Bank will announce that Israel’s education system is among the top five in the world. In another decade, the new Silicon Valley will be located in the lower Galilee and the Upper Galilee will be terribly jealous, In ten years, the level of violence will be lower than in Singapore and in 10 years there will be peace.
Is there anyone who can claim that any one of these goals – and another 10 like them – are beyond our abilities?
Try to imagine, roll with it. Let’s suppose that you heard the following:
“We choose to be the first. In ten years time Israeli students will lead the way in the sciences, math and technology. There will be a price though that each of us will have to pay but we will pay it. We won’t do it because it is easy but because it is difficult, not because it is cheap but because it is expensive. Not because someone else – you call it the ‘State’ – will be responsible but because we, each and every one of us will have to take up this cause.”
Did you know that Israel ranked 11th in last year’s math Olympics which took place in Korea? Bulgaria and Taiwan and even Iran scored higher than we did. We tied with Romania if that brings solace to anyone. Do you think even for a minute that we can’t do better?
Do you think that the portion of brains and talent and the ability that exists here – combined with the well-known Jewish push for excellence and education – we can’t win first place? Doesn’t shooting for the stars seem an admirable ambition?
Sure we have other problems. We have the Palestinians, the Syrians, the Hizbullah. We have social gaps and a crumbling political system and a quarreling judicial system, a defeated and bruised police force. Is the only solution to lose our way in the midst of all these problems?
Is it naive to think that if we had a goal - one that is absurd, off the charts, something with little chance of succeeding making it all the more noble – all our other problems would fade into the background and become less troublesome?
Isn’t naivete what creates countries, launches a thousand ships, and put Mr Armstrong on the moon? Isn’t a naive goal something that turns an angry and frustrated public into a chosen people that would never let the last man fall? Have we lost it? Have we forgotten the simple maxim that if we don’t know where this is going, the only recourse we have is to start walking?