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'Why does Rice play Texas?': How JFK's speech defined a rivalry

HOUSTON -- For a moment, on a warm Wednesday morning 57 years ago, John F. Kennedy made Rice Stadium the center of the American ambition.

As dignitaries seated behind him fanned their faces and wiped their brows in a futile effort to combat Houston's humidity, the nation's 35th president delivered a speech for the ages.

The race for space was front and center, and the moon was the goal. As 45,000 people watched, Kennedy eloquently outlined his plan and the reasons for it. New knowledge to be gained. New rights to be won. To become the world's leading space-faring nation.

"But why, some say, the moon?" Kennedy said. "Why choose this as our goal? And they may well ask why climb the highest mountain? Why, 35 years ago, fly the Atlantic?

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