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What Can We Learn from the Life of Ronald E. McNair?

Ronald E. McNair, one of the nation’s first African-American astronauts, was not afraid to dream big, overcome obstacles, and do whatever it took to learn the skills needed to reach his goals. His life is an inspiration to all those who have big dreams but are unsure of how to make them a reality. He was born in Lake City, South Carolina and he graduated from North Carolina A&T State University.

Starting Early

Born in a racially segregated city in the 1950s, young Ronald’s first obstacle to success was, naturally, the racial segregation that sought to prevent him from developing the skills he would need to become a successful adult. At the young age of 9, he refused to leave the library until the librarian handed him the books he had rightfully borrowed. The librarian, who not only refused to lend him the books but even called the police on the young patron, couldn’t stand in his way. Eventually, he left the library with his chosen books and, years later, the library building was named after him.

Developing a Range of Talents and Skills

Ronald is perhaps best known for his achievements in the realm of science and technology. He graduated magna cum laude with a B.S. in physics in 1971. He earned a Ph.D. in laser physics five years later and then went on to work as a staff physicist for a research laboratory. His job duties included developing lasers for isotope separation, conducting research on electro-optic laser modulation, and building ultra-fast infrared detectors. Dr. McNair was considered an expert in his field when NASA took him on as an astronaut in 1978.

At the same time, Ronald also developed his skill in a host of non-scientific fields. He earned a black belt in karate and become a karate champion. He was a stellar athlete as well as a highly accomplished jazz saxophonist. He even planned to record an original bit of music in space and would have been the first astronaut to do so had his life not been cut short by the tragic 1986 Challenger explosion.

What About You?

Sallie B. Howard School of Art and Science is a public school that encourages students to follow in Dr. McNair’s footsteps and dream big in order to achieve success. We encourage our students and even parents to keep a journal and write down their dreams, aspirations, and the steps they want to take to achieve their goals. With persistence, hard work, and a solid education, we know our children, young people, and their parents can change the world in which we live for the better.

Photos from Wikipedia

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