Thank You, Mae Jemison


"I was a women's libber at age 7. I didn't believe in any of this foolishness about what women could and couldn't do."

I asked a couple of close friends the other night, "how do you know you've become a woman?". I ask at 26, looking for some semblance of competency and assurance that I'm doing what is right at my age, as an adult and as a woman. But there is no right situation at age 26, or any age in fact, because our lives have meaning and value no matter our situation. Though limitations certainly still exist, we've come far in altering the stereotypes and titles that women have had little choice but to hold, and are rightly encouraged to obtain the freedom we deserve.  

These thoughts reminded me of those women who have inspired me over the years. Their fortitude and insight, the way in which they view the world and themselves, heightens my awareness of where I stand in the world. How I can be a leader, keen on the greater good, and truly take ownership of my life. 

So I decided to start a series called Thank You. It is a pause in the craziness of life to show appreciation toward women who have made great impacts. Those who have paved and continue to pave, roads for millions of girls to follow and grow in their own strengths. And I'm excited to include some women near to my heart who have inspired me greatly in my own life.

These women's voices are bold, their messages clear and strong, and their actions truly a direct reflection of the words they speak.

So, Mae Jemison.

She knew she'd go into space.

Who she is


Mae Jemison is the first African American female astronaut. She was sent into orbit in 1992, on the space shuttle Endeavour, and completed 127 orbits of earth in an 8 day mission. Prior to it, she oversaw the Peace Corps healthcare program in Liberia while still in medical school, worked in Cambodian refugee camps, interned at the LA County USC medical center, and she's been dancing since she was 8. All of that prior intensive work would be stepping stones to her career in NASA and beyond.

I learned of Jemison in an interview by Real Simple magazine in 2015 and resonated so much with her messages. One in particular made a significant impression.


"I don't fit in the boxes people like to put us in. Sometimes people want to stick you in one place and leave you there forever. [In my case] in that little orange flight suit."


There is no one mold we have to fit into. We can choose the path we want to take, the path we want to change, make mistakes, and flourish without having to defend our place in the world. Jemison is an amazing example of that. She has pursued and accomplished so much in multiple fields; physician, professor, business owner, non-profit founder. That list has made me truly regard the word limitless as real and attainable.

After leaving NASA she started a technology design consulting company called Jemison Group, which helps develop solar energy systems that create electricity in the developing world and satellite technology for healthcare delivery. Among so many other accomplishments, they have also designed different medical devices and created a program called The Earth We Share to develop a curriculum to keep kids engaged in science. 

She is passionate for the future of others and for all of mankind. Her goals are great, thoughtful, and inspiring, not just in their ingenuity but in their creativity as well.


100 Year Starship 


"[Space] was beautiful. I felt like I could be a part of everything else in this universe. But the real revelation was the recognition that the earth is going to be here-and we may not. People always say "Save the planet." Hell, we need to save ourselves from our own foolish behavior. We're not thinking of ourselves as part of an integrated system, and we're doing things that make the earth form an atmosphere that won't support our life form."


I found that awareness so interesting. I know that statement, "save the planet" and agree with it, seeing how saving the planet benefits us and all of the other life that inhabit it. But her statement changes the focus directly to us and our sustainability, and what new ways can we protect it. It places more significance on the detriment of our actions and the need for change.

Part of the Dorothy Jemison Foundation for Excellence, the essence of the 100 Year Starship program is to ensure there is feasibility for interstellar flight 100 years from now, so as to push mankind to neighboring stars. She goes on in the interview to describe what that entails and it's fascinating because the amount of time to travel to such places is not hours, but years. The program has to think about longevity of a healthy environment for people, which includes understanding important factors like food and sustainability. 

Another element I love about her perspective is that a project like this definitely requires collaboration, a meeting of scientific minds to formulate and discuss so many facets of an enterprise like this (Just thought of Star Trek >>the Starship Enterprise<< Fun fact: Jemison was the first real astronaut to appear on the Stark Trek TV series. SO great). She also includes experts from other fields, economists and theologians, people who have another perspective to contribute. There is value in having that varied collaboration because the endeavor does not just entail the health of our bodies, it is much more holistic. Our mind, spirit, and skillset of understanding and distributing resources is also incredibly important.


What I'm Thankful for

I think of all of the things that Mae Jemison has accomplished and I am a grateful believer that leadership can be cultivated no matter what position you hold. And because there is no one definition to a leader, it's important to take risks. 


"Taking risks doesn't mean putting people in danger. It means risking that you might do something other people won't get right away, and they may laugh at you. Just as leadership isn't really about being in charge: It's about prodding and poking to get the best work out of people. It's about using your place at the table and not always minding your manners."


I won't mind my manners so much now.

Thank you Ms. Jemison.


{I included information directly from the magazine article. Their web version awesomely breaks down her interview into 6 helpful strategies. I also pulled information from the Jemison Group site. You should definitely check both out. Thumbnail photo courtesy of CF Medicine}


Warm wishes,