40. In Event of Moon Disaster: The Greatest Speech Never Given
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It has been called “The Greatest Speech Never Given.”
Drafted as a contingency plan for President Richard Nixon on the occasion of the Apollo 11 moon landing, the memo entitled "In Event of Moon Disaster" is inarguably a better piece of writing than any of the presidential remarks actually delivered on that day.
Penned by White House speechwriter William Safire, today it is hailed as a work of rhetorical and poetic genius. It has inspired major Hollywood features, played a central role in moon landing anniversary observances, and even been used as a tool to educate information consumers on the dangers posed by deepfake technology.
And yet from July 20, 1969 until its rediscovery in 1999, this striking piece of American history remained buried in obscurity, its brilliance unrecognized among the millions of pages of documents archived from the Nixon administration.
So in this episode of the Lead Balloon podcast, we will track the path of the "Greatest Speech Never Given," from William Safire's desk, to Nixon's Chief of Staff, to its disappearance from and re-emergence in the national discourse.
Dwight Chapin, who served as Deputy Assistant to President Nixon and helped plan the Public Relations strategy for the moon landing, will tell us more about his colleague Bill Safire, and how they positioned the moon landing from a strategic communication context.
Joe Lopez, the Vice President of Marketing and Communications for the Richard Nixon Foundation, will discuss the memo's rediscovery and display in the Nixon Presidential Library.
And Francesca Panetta and Halsey Burgund, co-directors of the viral Emmy-winning short film “In Event of Moon Disaster,” will discuss their decision to reimagine the remarks by using deepfake technology to synthesize a video of Richard Nixon actually delivering the momentous speech.
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