jfk at rice university

Photo Credit:  John F. Kennedy Library

“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.”-

John F. Kennedy


This bold proclamation echoed across Rice University, and into history, on a hot, September day in 1962.  When these words were spoken, the necessary knowledge and technology to accomplish this task did not exist, but the requisite energy, passion, and creativity were in abundant supply.  President Kennedy’s bold declaration spurred America to action, and seven years later Apollo 11 astronauts would successfully land on the moon.  

This iconic speech demonstrates the power of setting daring and courageous goals, even if they seem impossible.  I believe educators should inspire students to call their own “moonshots”.  Certainly, we help students set goals, but I worry our approach is too pragmatic.  Critics will denote the astronomical odds of becoming a professional basketball player or a student at Harvard.  While goal setting should possess verisimilitude, it should also be flecked with encouragement and motivation.   Students should be informed of accompanying challenges, not to dampen enthusiasm, but to help them develop a plan of action.   

I have a friend who I consider to be a great parent.  He empowers his kids to call moonshots.  When they would set ambitious goals he would verify they understood the sacrifices involved.  Essentially, he would ask them, “Is this something you really want to do?”  If they did, he would simply state, “Alright, let’s find a way to make it happen.”  It’s a profound and empowering statement.    

This post is not an indictment against educators.  It’s an indictment against myself.  Too often I countered bold dreams with dissuading statistics.  I didn’t do this to be cruel, I just wanted to ensure students set realistic and attainable goals.  I now realize it wasn’t my responsibility to determine which goals were reasonable and attainable.  It was my responsibility to listen, verify commitment, and help them find a way to make it happen.

We are in desperate need of moonshots to solve today’s dynamic problems.  While we currently lack the knowledge and technology to solve these issues, the required energy, passion, and creativity are abundant in today’s classrooms.  


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