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 challenge is one we are willing to accept, one we are unwilling to postpone. And one we intend to win.”
President Kennedy spoke these words 52 years ago, and by 21st century standards they are laughably idealistic.
Imagine any politician today rallying a nation behind such a bold plan — appealing not to any sense of pragmatic purpose, but only to the intestinal fortitude of the human spirit.
Such a lawmaker would either be laughed off the stage or bombarded with complaints about misplaced priorities.
And the complainers would have a point; with so many terrestrial problems, spending billions on extra-terrestrial conquest is horribly irresponsible.
Yet, doing things only because they are there to be done is what drove Amelia Earhart to cross the Atlantic, and Hillary and Norgay to summit Mt. Everest. And Kennedy’s moon-proclamation remains one of the most famous speeches of the 20th century. Clearly there is a spark inside us, as a species, that is kindled by his sentiment.
I first heard JFK’s moon speech on a CD-ROM in my school library when I was in Grade 7; back then, I was a cross-country runner.
Long distance running appealed to my natural inclination for stamina. I trained regularly for five years and got pretty good at it. When I was 11 years old I ran Dawson’s Midnight Dome Race in 50 minutes.
I lost my passion for running during my apathetic teenage years and never got back into the sport on a consistent basis. But I maintained a base-level of ability in the jogging arts. For example, this August, when Bailey Staffen asked me to join her Klondike Road Relay team, I was able to amble my way through a 21-kilometre leg, finishing in the middle of the pack.
Though I have forsaken my passion for running, I developed other hobbies; in my early 20s I discovered I was pretty good at drinking beer. And much like running, my real beer-drinking strength lay in my stamina — many epic sessions at the Duke of Wellington Pub attest to this.
Now, I’m 33 years old and I’m not the best runner in town, or the best beer-drinker, but my mutual competency in these fields make me uniquely qualified for what I call “the 72 Challenge”.
Starting at midnight on November 8, I intend to run 24 kilometres and drink 24 beers in 24 hours (24 + 24 + 24 = 72).
Why would I undertake such a thing? I choose to do it not because it is easy, but because it is hard.
Mr. Kennedy, we live in a cynical age, but the human spirit you called to action in 1962 is still alive and well.
Hopefully I can say the same thing of myself on November 9.