“Be bold. Be courageous. Be your best.” Those words, relayed by Mark Kelly, renowned NASA astronaut, from his wife, former U.S. Congresswoman Gabby Gifford, capped an inspiring keynote address to open the 2016 JETC in Phoenix.
Mark Kelly, retired U.S. Navy captain, Gulf War veteran, and twice the commander of the Space Shuttle, led JETC attendees through a tour of his incredibly one-of-a-kind and heroic life—from a struggling new fighter pilot to an aviator flying Gulf War missions over Iraq; from launching into outer space to watching close-by as his wife recovered from a tragic shooting.
Capt. Mark Kelly has lived moments every child dreams of and ones every husband fears. Through it all he has been bold, courageous, and among our nation’s best.
Capt. Kelly kicked off his keynote by looking back to 1986, which was both his first year in flight school and also the year that Top Gun hit theaters; and as he joked, he was soon fairly sure that Tom Cruise (the actor, not his character Maverick) was a better pilot at that point. But Kelly persevered. And just a few short years later, he was leading combat missions over Iraq at the onset of Desert Storm, from which he shared a pearl of wisdom with the audience, explaining as Winston Churchill once said: “there is nothing more exciting than being shot at…and missed!”
Not long after serving in the Gulf War he was on his way to NASA, where he would go on to command two Space Shuttle missions, Discovery, and the final Endeavour mission to the International Space Station.
Kelly left the audience with several valuable takeaways, insights that are valuable no matter if you are a pilot, an astronaut, or an engineer on land.
- Focus on what you can control.
- How good you are is not a good indicator of how good you can become.
- There is never a good excuse for not communicating with your co-workers; timely and accurate communication is essential.
- None of us is as dumb as all of us; it’s important to remember the dangers of group-think.
- The power of the human spirit is amazing; people fight so hard to survive, and fight so hard to come back.
From a young pilot whose first aircraft landing was an exercise in try, try again, to a seasoned astronaut who led repairs on the International Space Station for all the world’s benefit, Mark Kelly has lived an adventure that few will ever experience.
But the lessons of perseverance, of being bold and courageous, of improving, and striving to be your best: these are goals that all can aspire to. They are the goals of engineers, and architects, and planners, and leaders; young professionals and industry executives; those in uniform and those in business suits—in other words, everyone who comprised the audience at the 2016 JETC opening session.
Following his keynote, Capt. Kelly remained on stage and was joined by SAME President Jane Penny for a special presentation. Together, they unveiled the logo of the new SAME Foundation and a placard highlighting the first fundraising opportunity for the Foundation’s new Professional Development Scholarship Program, which is being done in honor of Vietnam War veterans.
The new SAME Foundation will continue on the successes of the Education & Mentoring Fund while enabling a broad range of individuals and organizations who desire to leave a legacy in support of military engineering and our nation’s future.
The 2016 JETC will continue Wednesday morning, May 25, with a Society Year in Review from SAME President Jane Penny, followed by a keynote address on the importance of our nation’s infrastructure by Dan McNichol, award-winning journalist, best-selling writer, and author of several books including The Roads that Built America.
For more information on the 2016 JETC, visit www.same.org/jetc. Follow us on twitter @same_hq and using #SAMEJETC.