Text of William Safire’s speech for President Richard Nixon in the event of a disaster besetting Apollo 11 (Moon Mission 1969) – Adapted for Declamation

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

This was a complex and dangerous mission. The astronauts chosen for this mission needed to demonstrate extraordinary qualities– they needed to be intelligent and sharp under the most stressful conditions; they needed to be in top physical condition for the physical demands of the journey; they needed mental resilience; they needed adaptability – they needed these qualities and more, but above all, they needed to be willing to sacrifice their lives so that the human race can progress. 

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. Hope because they are showing us the true meaning of courage; because they are leading the world as emperors of inspiration for all engineers and scientists of the future; and because they are sending us a message that though the risks of advancement are great, we will not be able to progress unless we are prepared to make the ultimate sacrifice.  

They had the option to say no to this mission. What did these brave astronauts do? They did what they always did – they answered the call to help humanity stretch the boundaries of experience. They choose to risk their lives in the boldest mission in the history of the human race. 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 their 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 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.