On May 25, 1961, President Kennedy delivered his famous “Moon Shot speech” to a joint session of Congress. The following day, the Los Angeles Times ran the story “President Urgently Requests Congress to Back His Plans” by Don Shannon. Shannon’s article immediately takes a serious tone, beginning with the title that explicitly labels the urgency of the president’s request.
Shannon goes on to describe the president’s “ominous plea” emphasizing the moon shot program, including estimated costs of $40 billion over the course of a decade for the entire defense program. Shannon notes that Congress appear to be visibly cooler in its reception of the president when compared to his previous state of the union address in January. Nonetheless, Congress appeared to embrace the president’s call for taking on the challenge of space exploration.
Important to the context of the time, the moon shot was only a single, though attention dominating, piece of the president’s budget increase proposals. 1961 was a year full of challenges from the USSR, and President Kennedy wished to boost the security and military power of the United States as a whole. As Shannon reports, the president called for a number of other requests: $250 million for the Act for International Development (in specific response to the Vietnam situation), $60 million to boost the size of the Marine Corps, $100 million for boosting modern Army vehicles, and $125 million for weather and communications equipment. This comes in conjunction with various other program requests, such as unconventional warfare units, new air wings, increases in reserve divisions, and other assets with undisclosed costs.
Attention towards President Kennedy’s moon shot speech naturally centers towards the space program, touted as an advancement in technology and for mankind as a whole. However, Don Shannon seems to recognize the emphasis for security that served as the general undertone of the speech. The United States was increasing its challenge that USSR, and the moon shot was just one part of a truly massive effort.
SHANNON, DON. “President Urgently Requests Congress to Back His Plans: U.S. MOON SHOT.” Los Angeles Times (1923-Current File),1961.
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