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“Houston” is the first word of today’s Address—as it was the first word ever spoken on the lunar surface. This city, the moon, and the specific topic of today’s Address—the Twenty-fifth Amendment—are interconnected. Let me begin by tracing these interconnections. With apologies to Neil Armstrong, I will need to take more than “one small step,” but not much more. When Apollo 11 touched down on the moon, Neil Armstrong immediately relayed the news: “Houston, Tranquility Base here. The Eagle has landed.” The NASA program had achieved its amazing objective of landing a man on the moon in the decade of the 1960s—an objective defined in 1961 by President John Kennedy and pursued after Kennedy’s death by his Vice- President-turned-President, Lyndon Johnson. The two NASA space centers at the heart of this amazing project bear the names of these two Presidents: the Kennedy Space Center in Florida and the Johnson Space Center here in Houston. These extraordinary space centers, however, are hardly the only legacy of the Kennedy- Johnson years. The very transition from Kennedy to Johnson, a transition occasioned by the shocking events in another Texas city, precipitated a constitutional amendment in 1967 aimed at smoothing out the wrinkles in the constitutional fabric of presidential succession. That amendment provides the main topic for today’s Address.
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