In a recent Apple news article , well known tech consultant Tim Bajarin, President of Creative Strategies, Inc., discussed the importance of President John F Kennedy's “we choose to go to the moon speech.” Mr Bajarin believes that that speech given by the president on September 12, 1962 at Rice Stadium in Houston was crucial in the development of a whole generation of engineers and mathematicians: the very people necessary to this nation's winning the last century's great space race to the moon. It is Mr Bajarin’s opinion that “by the mid-1980s, without a similar push by either the US.government or the schools to emphasize science, technology, engineering and math (STEM for short), we lost almost two decades of youth who chose to go into other fields of learning.”
No argument but that this famous speech decisively launched this nation in pursuit of one of humankind’s great productive endeavors; what I question is that this speech actually became as Mr Bajarin claims, “the rallying cry for my generation.” I was a senior in a Texas High School at that time within a stone’s throw (Ok, so it was a forty-five-mile stone throw!) of White Sands Proving Grounds, and I can remember no such rallying cry. Instead, the baby-boomers were already well on their way to to their final destination of cranky self-absorption. Nor do I dispute Mr Bajarin’s belief that we lost almost two decades of STEM educated young people by the mid-1980’s--I am merely saying that the loss began in the mid-sixties while the final countdown for the moonshot was underway.
It is simply my contention--based on no data but my own--that the scientists, technicians, engineers and mathematicians who won President Kennedy’s challenge for the United States were members of that now much maligned Silent Generation that boomers love to disparage.
I contend that it was Sputnik’s challenge that produced the generation that developed the technological basis for much of what we so proudly hail today as something new under the sun.