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Where is JFK's lectern from his famed moon speech? Not at Space Center Houston, historian says

A lectern, on display for more than 30 years at Space Center Houston, is not the actual one President Kennedy used in one of his famous speeches, historian shows.

Jason Whitely

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Published: 1:53 PM CST February 17, 2023
Updated: 2:41 PM CST February 25, 2023

A celebrated lectern -- on display at Space Center Houston for more than 30 years and said to be the one from which President John F. Kennedy delivered his famous "moon shot" speech in 1962 -- is a fake artifact, a historian told WFAA.

“So, this has gone on now for 30 years,” said Farris Rookstool, III, a Dallas-based historian who specializes in the Kennedy administration. “No one has questioned it.”

On Sept. 12, 1962, in front of 40,000 people on the football field at Rice University, President Kennedy delivered the address that eventually inspired the Apollo moon missions.

“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 famously stated in his signature Boston accent.

“This [address] is considered, and in my opinion is, Kennedy’s greatest speech of all time,” Rookstool said. “This put Houston on the map.”

Credit: NASA Archives
On September 12, 1962, President Kennedy delivered his famous 'moon shot' speech in which he inspired the moon missions that would come later in the decade.

But thirty years after JFK spoke those words, Rice University suddenly claimed to have the IBM lectern that the president used that day. It was sitting backstage at the campus theater in Hamman Hall during the 1990s, the university said.

“They just said ‘ah-ha, that’s our lectern there in 1962 and have just perpetuated this myth as urban legend for all this time,” said Rookstool, after having forensically inspected it.

In 1993, Rice University drew up a letter and donated its lectern to Space Center Houston, where it enjoys a permanent museum display on stage in the Destiny Theater. It’s also often trotted out and used for VIPs and dignitaries.

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