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Watch: President John F. Kennedy's famous speech on Rice University campus

JFK spoke about sending humans to the moon and Houston's role in it.

HOUSTON — Monday marks 60 years since former President John F. Kennedy gave his famous speech at Rice University, reaffirming his support for the manned space program.

It was on Sept. 12, 1962, in the school's football stadium, that Kennedy uttered his famous quote, “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.”

With that, Kennedy inspired the race to land on the moon. 

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“Your city of Houston with its manned spacecraft center will become the heart of a large scientific and engineering community,” Kennedy said.

Hundreds of Houston Independent School District students joined Rice, NASA and others to commemorate the event.

“It changed the course of our, not only political ... but our scientific ... our technological history,” NASA Administrator Bill Nelson said.

About 40,000 people listened to Kennedy's speech in person, including 75-year-old Terry O’Rourke who returned for the 60th anniversary of the speech.

"Sixty years ago, I was a junior in high school and rode my bike to right here to Rice Stadium to hear the President of the United States speak about going to the moon,” O’Rourke said.

RELATED: Watch: President John F. Kennedy's famous speech on Rice University's campus

O’Rourke, an attorney who later worked in the Carter administration, considers the speech a turning point for Houston as it transitioned from the "Old South" to “Space City.”

“It was audacious but it made me want to be with him in the new frontier because space was the new frontier,” O’Rourke said.

But why is Houston considered 'Space City?' By the time President Kennedy gave his historic speech at Rice University, NASA had already announced that Houston would be home to the manned spacecraft center.

Originally it had been located at Langley, Virginia. However, when Kennedy committed to lunar exploration, NASA realized they needed a bigger space. In September of 1961, the space agency said an area near Houston had been picked after multiple sites had been evaluated.

WATCH: JFK tours first Manned Spacecraft Center in Houston

So how did we pass the test?

NASA had a list of things it wanted from the location. They included access to barge transportation, a mild climate, a good airport, and a thousand acres of land that wasn’t too pricey. They also needed a nearby university good enough to supply all the bright minds needed to run the center. Houston had all that including Rice University, still considered one of the best schools in the country.

You can read more about how Houston was picked in 'The Why.'

You can also read the full text of Kennedy's Rice University speech here. And you can watch it in the video window below.


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