NASA administrator promotes education
Administrator Charles F. Bolden, Jr. of National Aeronautics and Space Administration gave a speech highlighting the role of public education in advancing social justice.
Bobby Donaldson, associate professor for USC’s Department of History introduced Bolden.
Donaldson said Bolden is a proud product of the Columbia community and that if you were to Google or Wikipedia him you would find an impressive biography.
Donaldson then read a list of the Columbia native’s accomplishments, which included being named the 12th Administrator of NASA and serving a 34-year career in the Marine Corps as well as 14 years as a member of NASA’s Astronaut Office.
After Donaldson finished his introduction, Bolden took the stage to a standing ovation.
Bolden had two of his former middle school teachers in the room, whom he had stand and be recognized.
Heyward E. McDonald, for whom the Lecture on Peace and Justice is named, was a South Carolina native who had a passion for learning and revered public issues. McDonald graduated from the United States Naval Academy and later the University of South Carolina’s School of Law. McDonald had a strong Christian faith and worked to promote peace and justice.
An obvious parallel, Bolden also attended the Naval Academy, which, he said, he decided to attend when it became apparent that segregation laws would not allow him to go to USC.
Since no one from the S.C. Delegation would write a recommendation for Bolden, he began writing Vice President Lyndon B. Johnson letters, saying he wanted to be appointed to the Naval Academy. His pleas were rejected on the basis that he was too young. Bolden was told to write back when he was older. When President John F. Kennedy was assassinated and Lyndon B. Johnson became President, however, Bolden was afraid that as President, Johnson couldn’t grant his wishes. Nevertheless, Bolden wrote to President Johnson and two weeks later a Navy recruiter knocked on his door. The recruiter’s job was to travel around the country looking for minorities wanting to attend the academy.
“Always remind yourself of why you are pursuing the things you do,” Bolden said.
An Illinois congressman wrote his recommendation letter and he entered the academy on paper as a resident of Illinois. Bolden said this wasn’t a great way to start a career on integrity.
“Mom and dad always told us you can do anything you want to do but you’ve got to prepare yourself,” Bolden said.
Bolden transitioned, talking about the technology of NASA and how their primary criteria are excellence and diversity.
“I believe our exploration mission also helps us be better human beings,” Bolden said.
Bolden also elaborated on how space technology has helped develop materials that protect firemen and bicycle helmets.
“What I preside over at NASA would have been science fiction when I grew up,” Bolden said. “We have caused textbooks to be rewritten,”
During the question and answer session Bolden was asked about the future of NASA, to which he responded he was optimistic. He said that NASA would continue to handle exploration that is expensive and risky and mentioned that Obama set a deadline of 2025 to visit an asteroid.
Bolden said when discussing his work at NASA.
Ann Carbone, a seventh grade math teacher and Solar System Educator, has been on NASA-sponsored trips for teachers. She said that South Carolina is trying to emphasize science technology engineering and mathematics classes.
“So the kids say, ‘Hey this is actually being used somewhere,’” Carbone said.
Carbone also talked about how when she was in Houston on one of the trips, the people who worked at NASA had just found out about budget cuts, yet they all said Bolden was still a wonderful encourager and very rarely told them not to do something.
“In the classroom I think kids need to hear about following their dreams,” Carbone said.
Kyle Thompson, a second-year athletic training student and son of a teacher at Bolden Elementary in Beaufort S.C., said Bolden was an incredible speaker.
“It was very inspiring,” Thompson said.
Despite his high status Bolden remained humble and claims that he never regrets anything.
“I have had a blessed life,” Bolden said.