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Apollo 11: The Greatest Speech, Never Heard

by
US President Richard Nixon 1969

Yesterday, as I was reading through some articles, I was reminded of the unread speech by William (Bill) Safire. Bill was a speechwriter to the then US President Richard Nixon.

In 1969, the US sent three men to the moon, two of whom landed on the lunar surface. History shows they returned to Earth safely, however there was a chance that they’d be stranded or killed. (They almost were stranded due to fuel exhaustion during landing).

In preparing for the worst outcome, Bill Safire wrote a speech for Nixon to deliver in the unfortunate event that the two astronauts who did land on the moon died, or were dying. (The third astronaut was in orbit about the moon and had less likely a risk of remaining stranded.) It has often been called, ‘the greatest speech, never heard’.

So that we can see what it looks like to be prepared for every eventuality, here’s a transcript of the speech prepared by Bill Safire for Richard Nixon to read, ‘in the event of moon disaster’:


To: H. R. Haldeman
From: Bill Safire
July 18, 1969.

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IN EVENT OF MOON DISASTER:

Fate has ordained that the men who went to the moon to explore in peace will stay on the moon to rest in peace.

These brave men, Neil Armstrong and Edwin Aldrin, know that there is no hope for their recovery. But they also know that there is hope for mankind in their sacrifice.

These two men are laying down their lives in mankind’s most noble goal: the search for truth and understanding.

They will be mourned by their families and friends; they will be mourned by the nation; they will be mourned by the people of the world; they will be mourned by a Mother Earth that dared send two of her sons into the unknown.

In their exploration, they stirred the people of the world to feel as one; in their sacrifice, they bind more tightly the brotherhood of man.

In ancient days, men looked at the stars and saw their heroes in the constellations. In modern times, we do much the same, but our heroes are epic men of flesh and blood.

Others will follow, and surely find their way home. Man’s search will not be denied. But these men were the first, and they will remain the foremost in our hearts.

For every human being who looks up at the moon in the nights to come will know that there is some corner of another world that is forever mankind.

PRIOR TO THE PRESIDENT’S STATEMENT:

The President should telephone each of the widows-to-be.

AFTER THE PRESIDENT’S STATEMENT, AT THE POINT WHEN NASA ENDS COMMUNICATIONS WITH THE MEN:

A clergyman should adopt the same procedure as a burial at sea, commending their souls to “the deepest of the deep,” concluding with the Lord’s Prayer.


The original speech is available in PDF format at [http://www.archives.gov/presidential-libraries/events/centennials/nixon/images/exhibit/rn100-6-1-2.pdf]

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