Just as in the sciences we have learned that we are too ignorant to safely pronounce anything impossible, so for the individual. We cannot know just what are our limitations, we can hardly say with certainty that anything is necessarily within or beyond our grasp. Each must remember that no one can predict to what heights of wealth, fame or usefulness we may rise until we have honestly endeavored. … It has often proven true that the dream of yesterday is the hope of today and the reality of tomorrow.
This is an excerpt from a 1904 high school graduation speech given by Robert Goddard, who went on to pioneer rocket propulsion. (Please note: I’ve cleaned it up lightly, swapped “our” for the “he”, broken up sentences in certain places.)
I’m reading David A. Clary’s biography of Goddard for an essay I’m writing on the relationship between space tourism and science fiction. Goddard was a genuine science fiction buff, and considered H.G. Wells and Jules Verne important sources of inspiration. If the human mind could conceive of something like space travel, he reasoned, why could it not also figure out a way to make it happen?