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Mae Jemison Speech by Masha Adamski

Mae Jemison Speech by Masha Adamski, 6th grade Ms. Lawrence 

"Never limit yourself because of others' limited imagination; never limit others because of your own limited imagination." My name is Mae Jemison, I am a physician, engineer, and a former NASA astronaut. Sounds pretty boring, huh? Well here’s the thing: I'm the first African American woman to travel into space. In 1992, I served as a mission specialist on Space Shuttle Endeavour. I was on a mission STS-47 during the mission I orbited the Earth for 8 days.      

I was born on October 17, 1956 (I’m 64 now) in Decatur, Alabama. Nothing much happened, it was one of the best years to be born actually. I was the youngest one in the family, my mother was a teacher in Chicago, Illinois and my father was a maintenance supervisor for a charity organization. Since I was small I loved science and wanted to become an astronaut. Even though my parents supported the idea, my teachers didn’t seem to bother. "Everybody was thrilled about space, but I remember being really, really irritated that there were no women astronauts." When I was 8 I started studying ballet and when I was only 12 I already went to High School where I joined cheerleading and Modern Dance clubs. Though I loved dancing my fascination for space didn’t decrease. I think I was 16 when I went to college, but don’t think that I didn’t want to. I went there because I was ‘naive and stubborn enough.” Unfortunately, I wasn’t the only African American student who continued to face discrimination from teachers. It was hard to get into Stanford University, because I was so young. I was head of Black Students Union in college. And my heart was torn in 2 when I had to graduate, because I didn’t want to leave my future dancing career and I wanted to become a scientist. But the choice had to be made and in 1977 I graduated with a B.S. degree in chemical engineering and I also got a B.A. degree in African-American studies (as I said I was a head of Black Students Union).  

       Enough of my childhood, let’s move on to my NASA career. I moved to Los Angeles where I was secretly practicing engineering courses. When I heard about Sally Ride and Guin Bufford in 1983 it inspired me to become an astronaut. So, I decided to apply for astronaut’s training program in October 1985. Alas, NASA postponed selection because of the Challenger disaster. I reapplied 1987 and out of 2000 participants there were only fifteen chosen and I was one of them. Of course, I was proud to be one of them after the Challenger group. Finally, the day for which I was preparing so long, came. The STS-47 was Japan’s and U.S.’s cooperative mission since they had an anniversary of the 50th shuttle mission. I was in space for 8 days, to be precise: 190 hours, 30 min., 23 sec., and I orbited Earth 127 times.  

     I think that overall I opened new opportunities to the world. It’s not just about me being the first woman in space, it’s about me being the first African-American woman in space. I proved that no matter who you are, you can make changes not for yourself but for everybody. I proved that no matter how many people don’t believe in you, you are not hopeless. “You have the right to be involved. You have something important to contribute, and you have to take the risk to contribute it.”