It's been a week of momentous events for our nation.

On Wednesday we remembered the terrorist attack in 2001 that changed our world forever. Just as we recall that dark day 12 years ago, we also can't forget that America was again attacked a year ago in Libya. The scale of the Benghazi attacks didn't approach 9/11/01 but it still claimed four American lives, including our ambassador. We're still waiting for the full story to emerge and the criminals brought to justice.

Overshadowed this week was the anniversary of one of the great presidential speeches of our lifetime by John F. Kennedy. Whether or not you agreed with his politics, JFK certainly deserves his place in history for the way he was able to inspire the nation.

Presidents are often gauged in history by their words. One of the worst speeches we've seen is President Obama's attempt last Tuesday to dig himself out of a hole concerning the red line comment he made on Syria's use of chemical weapons. Obama's confusing words and then Secretary of State John Kerry comments the next day concerning Syrian President Bashar Assad created an opening for Russian leader Vladimir Putin to seize the moment and call for diplomacy.

A comparison of Obama's mishandling of the Syrian mess with how Kennedy managed the Cuban missile crisis with his own "red line" to the Soviet Union in 1962 shows the importance of possessing and then projecting presidential leadership, not only at home but on a global stage.

September 12 marked the anniversary of one of Kennedy's greatest addresses, the famous "Moon Speech" at Rice University in 1962. At the time America was in a space race with the Soviet Union, and with the Cold War as a backdrop, the space program meant a great deal in global prestige to the world's two great superpowers.

The most famous words from that Kennedy address still fills us with a sense of pride.

"We choose to go to the moon. 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, because that goal will serve to organize and measure the best of our energies and skills, because that challenge is one that we are willing to accept, one we are unwilling to postpone, and one which we intend to win, and the others, too," he said.

Also in the speech, Kennedy took us on a timeline of history, showing our technological advances in just the last few generations.

"This is a breathtaking pace, and such a pace cannot help but create new ills as it dispels old, new ignorance, new problems, new dangers," he stated. "Surely the opening vistas of space promise high costs and hardships, as well as high reward."

Kennedy ended his speech by challenging us to land a man on the moon by the end of the decade.

"Well, space is there, and we're going to climb it, and the moon and the planets are there, and new hopes for knowledge and peace are there. And, therefore, as we set sail we ask God's blessing on the most hazardous and dangerous and greatest adventure on which man has ever embarked," he said.

Kennedy was assassinated nearly a year later in Dallas, Texas, and never got to see Neil Armstrong take his "giant step for mankind" when he stepped onto the lunar surface in 1969.

The U.S. space program, which Kennedy forged through his passion for space exploration, has been virtually abandoned by the Obama administration. But you can't erase the legacy of a visionary like JFK, who taught so many baby boomers that reaching for the stars can bring high reward.

By Jim Zbick

jzbick@tnonline.com