President Obama channels JFK during his last State of the Union address

Vice President Joe Biden points at President Barack Obama after his “moonshot’’ call to cure cancer.
Vice President Joe Biden points at President Barack Obama after his “moonshot’’ call to cure cancer. –AP

President Barack Obama invoked John F. Kennedy—more than once—during his final State of the Union address on Tuesday night.

When talking about increasing scientific research efforts, specifically around a cure for cancer, he alluded to Kennedy’s 1962 address at Rice University in Houston, Texas, that focused on the desire for the U.S. to become an international leader in space exploration.

“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,’’ Kennedy said in his famous speech.

Obama called for a cancer cure to be this generation’s “moonshot’’ goal, echoing his vice president.


“We built a space program overnight, and 12 years later, we were walking on the moon,’’ Obama said during Tuesday’s speech.

“Last year, Vice President Biden said that with a new moonshot, America can cure cancer,’’ he added later.

This new national mission will be led by Vice President Joe Biden.

“I’m putting Joe in charge of Mission Control,’’ Obama said. “For the loved ones we’ve all lost, for the families that we can still save, let’s make America the country that cures cancer once and for all. What do you say, Joe? Let’s make it happen.’’

Biden outlined his plan, as well as referenced Kennedy’s “call to humankind’’ 55 years ago, in a Medium post published Tuesday night.

“It inspired a generation of Americans — my generation — in pursuit of science and innovation, where they literally pushed the boundaries of what was possible,’’ Biden wrote. “This is our moonshot.’’

The announcement of this new national effort was not the only glimmer of JFK in Obama’s speech.

During Kennedy’s 1962 State of the Union address he called on the American people to help him improve the state of the union.

“It is my task to report the State of the Union—to improve it is the task of us all,’’ he said.


Obama echoed a similar sentiment in his address.

“This cannot be my task—or any president’s—alone,’’ Obama said.

“I can’t do these things on my own. Changes in our political process — in not just who gets elected but how they get elected — that will only happen when the American people demand it. It depends on you. That’s what’s meant by a government of, by, and for the people,’’ he added later.

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