The president’s annual message is usually delivered once a year before a Joint Session of Congress. In 1961, President Kennedy gave his State of the Union Address on January 30, but urgent national needs in the areas of foreign aid, international and civil defense, and outer space brought Kennedy before Congress again on May 25 to deliver this address.
The launch of the Soviet Union’s first Sputnik satellite in 1957 had produced, in short order, a response by the United States that included an executive agency for space exploration and the launch of the first American satellite in space. Just a few weeks before this address, astronaut Alan Shepard became the first American in space, once again coming in second to the Soviets, who sent a man to space in April 1961. Determined to be first at the next milestone in space exploration, Kennedy announced his goal of sending a man to the moon by the end of the decade and asked Congress to commit the funds to achieve success: “For while we cannot guarantee that we shall one day be first, we can guarantee that any failure to make this effort will find us last.”
This copy of Kennedy’s address was referred to the Committee of the Whole House on the State of the Union, whose records include other State of the Union addresses and presidential messages.