John F. Kennedy photo

Remarks at Redstone Arsenal, Huntsville, Alabama.

May 18, 1963

Senator Sparkman, Governor Wallace, Senator Hill, Congressman Elliott, Senator Kefauver, Chairman Wagner of the TVA, Congressman Jones, Congressman Albert Rains, Dr. Von Braun, distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen:

I want to express a very warm sense of appreciation to you for coming out and joining us. We flew this morning from Washington to Nashville in about an hour and 45 minutes. One hundred years ago or so, 130 years ago, it took Andrew Jackson 30 days to go from Washington, D.C., the White House, to his house, the Hermitage, in Nashville. I don't know whether the world is better off than it was then, but at least we move around more. Whether we accomplish much is going to depend on the judgment of other generations, but I will say as we move faster, there is no place in the world in this decade that is going to play a more significant role in that motion than this community right here in the center of Alabama.

I wonder how many of the people here, now that we have all been introduced--we would like to know something more about you. How many of you here are either in the Armed Forces of the United States, the wife of a member of the Armed Forces of the United States, or the child of a member? Could you hold up your hands? Well, you have just convinced Senator Sparkman and Senator Hill to vote for that pay raise, and I am glad we all came down here.

Then I wonder how many of you work in one way or another for the space agency. Would you hold up your hands? And then I wonder how many of you are taxpayers that are supporting all the rest of us? And what about the Arsenal? All right.

In any case, all of us, whether we are doing one thing or the other, whether we are in Huntsville, Washington, D.C., wherever we may be, all of us are committed to a great objective, and that is to see the United States of America, of which we are proud, not only meet its responsibilities here at home, not only provide a better life for its people, but also continue to be, as it has since 1945, the keystone of the arch of freedom all around the world. There are Americans serving today in defending the freedom of Viet-Nam, and they stretch, either in service themselves, or by the guarantees which are maintained by the Armed Forces of the United States--they maintain the freedom of countries stretching all the way around from South Korea in a great half-circle to Berlin. Without the United States there are literally dozens of countries that would not now be free, and with the United States, and with our determination, and with our strong look forward, not only shall they be free, but also the people who come after them.

I know there are lots of people now who say, "Why go any further in space?" When Columbus was halfway through his voyage, the same people said, "Why go on any further? What will we possibly find? What good will it be?" And they want to stop now.

I believe the United States of America is committed in this decade to be first in space. And the only way we are going to be first in space is to work as hard as we can here and all across the country, and support not only Major Cooper but all those who come after him.

So, ladies and gentlemen, we depend on you, either you in the Armed Forces of the United States who help defend the freedom, even here, of countries thousands of miles away, you who are building these missiles which not only raised an American into space but raised the prestige and reputation of this country. I am proud to be here.

I leave this valley, this State, this region, in which I arrived only a few hours ago, realizing once again what a strong, great country we are, what a strong, great people we are, and we are all determined to keep it so.

Thank you.

Note: The President spoke at 4 p.m. His opening words referred to U.S. Senator John Sparkman, Governor George C. Wallace, U.S. Senator Lister Hill, and U.S. Representative Carl Elliott--all of Alabama; U.S. Senator Estes Kefauver of Tennessee; Aubrey J. Wagner, Chairman, Tennessee Valley Authority; U.S. Representatives Robert E. Jones and Albert Rains of Alabama; and Dr. Wernher von Braun, Director, George C. Marshall Space Flight Center, Huntsville, Ala.

John F. Kennedy, Remarks at Redstone Arsenal, Huntsville, Alabama. Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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