“I’m thankful to all those who said NO to me. It’s because of them I did it myself”. Albert Einstein said that, and likely you understand this quote like I do. Life can be rewarding, but like most things you get out what you put in. The legislative session has started. Our legislators must hear lots of NOs all day long during the session. Each legislator struggles individually and eventually they must come together and translate what they hear into some cohesive plan that becomes our state budget. Individual effort rarely can accomplish great things, yet accomplishment starts with individual effort. Belief in representative democracy is faith in the power of individual struggle.
We give our representatives the power to create law. Embedded in representative democracy is a belief citizens can govern themselves. At the core of that belief is the assumption citizens will be educated. Becoming educated is a survival skill, not only for the individual but for the survival of our nation.
I taught English at Las Cruces High in 1970, it was part of a post graduate student teaching experience. I met students who were Juniors in high school who could not read. I went to catholic school. You learned to read. Period.
When I gave my first test, I got some papers back with only a name at the top. I was insulted. “Why did you only put your name at the top”, I asked the kid who was sitting on my right in the front row? He said he could not read the test. That’s when I got it, physically, I felt like I was on stage at a comedy club with no jokes. I put my papers down, and headed for Mr.Foltz, the Principal’s office. I was outraged about kids who could not read and how could he let this happen? Poor man. Then I began to realize how angry those student must be every day. They were not able to read the phone book, street signs or even paint cans. What would happen if they got really mad? I did not have the knowledge or ability to face down the challenge I met that day. I deeply respect those who take it on each day.
I have not forgotten my NOs, they drive me still. On Friday, I got an email from Gene Kranz’s daughter, Jeannie. She wrote about Richard Garriott’s new film, “Man on a Mission”. Gene Kranz was the Flight Director best known as the Director of the Mission Control team that saved the Apollo 13 crew. It was Mr. Kranz who said “failure is not an option”, which is also the title of his book.
Richard made his money in video game development. His father, Owen Garriott was an astronaut. Richard wanted to follow in his father’s footsteps until bad eye sight derailed his plans. I spoke to Richard three years ago. He described the struggle, the feeling of frustration not being able to go to space. He felt it was his destiny. In 2008, he paid $30 million and spent two weeks on the International Space Station (ISS). Richard is part of a very exclusive club of second-generation space travelers.
Space Adventures is the company that brokered Richard’s trip, it is a company co-founded by Peter Diamandis. Peter came to Las Cruces when the State of New Mexico won the competition to host the XPRIZE Cup in 2005. Peter, has a medical degree from Harvard Medical School and the founder of the XPRIZE. The XPRIZE was won by Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen and Burt Rutan in 2004. It began the era of private-sector manned spaceflight. Burt Rutan and Richard Branson are designing the vehicles that will operate under Virgin Galactic and fly from Spaceport America. SpaceShipOne was the world’s first non-government piloted spacecraft .
Peter also wanted to be an astronaut. The NO drove him to create not only the XPRIZE Foundation, but also to co-found the International Space University (ISU), and the Zero G Corporation which flies many New Mexico student experiments. Being left out or being left back is not the end, and can be a beginning.
We held a workshop on Saturday, January 21st, for teachers. It is in preparation for the 4th annual Student Launch, which provides annual access to space for student experiments. Do you know how many teachers and students tell us they never thought they’d have this chance? Lots. For those who are selected to fly, it will be a big YES.