Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Defining Persistence

This year’s NAGC Communications School provided great opportunities to learn, network and hear great speakers. The breakout sessions touched on numerous topics relevant to government communicators and the challenges we face each day. One of the most engaging and interesting breakout sessions was the session about journalists’ perceptions of public information officers. Anyone who heard Doc Trahan open the school with his “Gumbo Leadership” speech swore they could taste the gumbo afterwards, and they left with terrific leadership tips. My favorite session was the keynote delivered by Mike Foreman, the NASA astronaut whose personal story exemplifies persistence. 

According to Foreman, he knew from the time he was eight years old that he wanted to become a naval aviator and an astronaut.  He finished high school, applied for and was accepted to the Naval Academy.  Once he completed the Naval Academy, he applied for naval aviator training. He was finally accepted on his 8th attempt! After completing aviator school Mike applied to NASA for astronaut training.  He was 41 years old when he was finally admitted into NASA for astronaut training, but Mike Foreman was accepted into the NASA program and trained as a payload specialist. He realized his dream of becoming an astronaut and flew on two shuttle missions, walking in space numerous times.

I must admit that I have had a passion for space exploration since I was five and may be predisposed to a speech by an astronaut. I grew up in Houston, Texas, during the height of the space race; that would be the 60’s for those of you too young to remember. Many of my friends’ parents worked at the Johnson Space Center and our schools followed every mission with rapt attention. 

Mike Foreman’s speech kindled a nostalgic streak I didn’t know I had. Rarely do I look backward except to glean lessons learned from life’s opportunities. But for a few minutes that afternoon, I was a kid again, watching an honest to goodness hero talk passionately about his journey toward a dream. I cannot say what it’s like to walk in space; it’s something I doubt I will ever have the opportunity to do. But Mike Foreman helped me remember what it was like to be part of a national obsession, because obsession is the best way to describe that race to beat the Russians in space exploration. Astronaut Foreman also made me remember to dream big and to NEVER give up on my dreams. His lesson of passion and persistence is one we can all to emulate.

Submitted by Kathryn Stokes, NAGC Board member and Strategic Affairs Officer/Public Relations Manager at the Mississippi Department of Employment Security.

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