Finally the man of the hour arrives. Despite the heat, he's dressed in a full suit and commences to deliver one of the most memorable speeches of all time. He announces to the world America's goal to put a man on the moon within the decade.
He speaks for a little over 18 minutes. In that time he inspires. He motivates. He challenges. He empowers not just his audience, but people everywhere to dream big dreams; to "shoot for the moon" (pun intended!); and to eagerly embrace challenges.
Who are you?
You are Coach Jess Neely for the Rice University football team. You are just beginning your 1962 season. You've been at the helm since 1940. You had a milestone season just 5 years ago when in 1957 you led the Owls to a Southwest Conference championship. That same season Rice took on Navy in the Cotton Bowl. The team finished 7-4 and beat the likes of LSU, Stanford, SMU, Arkansas, Texas A&M, TCU and Baylor.
The President even used Rice football as an example in his speech and when he did, you beamed with pride.
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, because that 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, and the others, too.
Little did Coach Neely realize, but that conference title wouldn't come for another 51 years. Although the Owls came close several times, they couldn't seal the deal. But all that changed on Saturday, December 7, 2013 when the Owls beat Marshall in a decisive win to clinch the Conference USA title.
Saturday's win represents the enormous amount of time, energy and resources invested in the Rice program and its student athletes over the years. The win wasn't just a win for the season, rather it was a milestone for the school.
The Rice University Owls have battled through hell and high water to accomplish this feat. From operating on a limited budget to coaches leaving the program for "better" opportunities to recruiting not just stellar athletes, but young men with academic prowess as well, Rice has persevered through it all. They've gone up against schools 10 times their size and yet they haven't given up.
There is no such thing as an overnight success. Victories are years in the making. Successful programs are years in the making. Thanks to Coach Neely and the many other coaches who helped build a strong foundation brick by brick. It took 56 years, but oh, the wait was worth it! Victory is sweet!
- Rice Football 2013 Media Guide
- Transcript and video of JFK's speech
- Article about Saturday's win entitled, Hard work and love: How Rice became football champions after 56 years and one monster betrayal
- Article about JFK's speech at Rice stadium entitled, 50 years ago a promise made, a promise kept: going to the moon