Retired U.S. Marine Corps Major General and former NASA Administrator Charles Frank Bolden Jr. has been selected as recipient of the 2017 Nierenberg Prize.
While many young people dream of becoming a NASA astronaut and exploring space, only a select few actually make this dream a reality. Some seemingly “fall into” this remarkable career path. One of those people is retired U.S. Marine Corps Major General and former NASA Administrator Charles Frank Bolden Jr., who spent 34 years serving in the Marine Corps and 14 years as a NASA astronaut (1980-1994), logging more than 680 hours in space during four space shuttle missions, twice as commander and twice as pilot.
In honor of his remarkable career and lifetime of service to science, his country, and the public, Bolden has been selected as recipient of the 2017 Nierenberg Prize by Scripps Institution of Oceanography at the University of California, San Diego. All are invited to attend the award ceremony and a presentation from Bolden in a free event on Oct. 17 at 6 p.m. at the Robert Paine Scripps Forum for Science, Society and the Environment.
Bolden grew up in the segregated South and overcame great obstacles to become a transformative leader. He is the first African American to serve as NASA Administrator, a position he held from July 2009 to January 2017 which was appointed by President Barack Obama and confirmed by the U.S. Senate. During his time at the helm, Bolden oversaw a new era of exploration with science activities including an unprecedented landing on Mars by the Curiosity rover, launch of a spacecraft to Jupiter, and continued progress toward the 2018 launch of the James Webb Space Telescope, the successor to the Hubble Space Telescope.
UC San Diego News sat down to chat with Bolden about his incredible journey, from his early days in science to space and beyond.
Q: What inspired you to get involved in science?
Charles Bolden: I always liked taking stuff apart and putting it back together, but I think I became seriously involved in seventh grade, in middle school when my seventh-grade science teacher Mr. J.P. Neal not only encouraged but almost mandated us to participate in science fairs in school. I fell in love with it and I never missed a science fair after that.
Q: Have you ever followed up with that teacher to let him know the impact he had on your life?
It has long been one of the lesser-known facts about the life of Barack Obama. For all the talk about the former president and his Ivy alma maters — Columbia University and Harvard Law School — he actually spent the first two years of his higher education life, from 1979 to 1981, attending Occidental College in Los Angeles.
For Occidental, or Oxy as it is known, Mr. Obama has long been its little-known claim to fame. That may be about to change for this 2,000-student private liberal arts college founded in 1887. Occidental is announcing on Wednesday the creation of the Barack Obama Scholars Program, a $40 million endowment intended to cover the $70,000 annual tab of tuition and board for 20 students a year.
It will be aimed at providing four-year scholarships to veterans, community college transfers and those who are the first in their family to go to college. “My years at Occidental College sparked my interest in social and political causes, and filled me with the idea that my voice could make a difference,” Mr. Obama said in a statement. He said he hoped this program would “train the next generation of leaders and active citizens, and fill them with the conviction that they too can change the world.”
The program has raised $7 million, enough to fund two scholarships, starting next fall. The goal is to create a big enough endowment to fund not only scholarships but post-graduation fellowships for students who head into low-paying fields. Mr. Obama, who has been doing quite well financially since leaving the White House, has not yet written a check, but the president of Occidental, Jonathan Veitch, said the former president was high on his list of asks. “I am going all over the world asking people for money,” he said. “Why wouldn’t I ask him?”
“There are not many liberal arts colleges that educate a president,” Mr. Veitch said. “We are very proud of the fact and very proud of him. We thought this would be a great way to honor him and have our students emulate the values he represents.”
Since Ruth Odom Bonner joined President Barack Obama in ringing the bell to open the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture last year, more than 2.5 million people have visited the site.”What’s been so moving is that it’s clear after a year, the museum has already become a pilgrimage site,” says Director Lonnie Bunch, who began the “great adventure” of opening the museum in 2005. What followed was more than a decade of building a collection and a building from scratch. It culminated on September 24, 2016 when the daughter of a slave and the nation’s first black president tolled the 500-pound bell that had been lent by the historically black First Baptist Church in Williamsburg, Va. and ushered people in.
Visitors to the African American History and Culture Museum tend to stay more than triple the typical amount of time they spend at most museums. Even a year later, a pass system remains in place to prevent overcrowding, and the free tickets remain difficult to come by (they are released monthly, and a limited number of same-day tickets are available online starting at 6:30 a.m.). The cafe serves up over 1,500 meals a day. Bunch attributes the success in part to a pent up demand—generations worked to get the museum built, and the long-held dream was only fulfilled after more than a century of effort. But he also believes that the way the museum presents its subject matter has a lot to do with it.”It tells the unvarnished truth,” Bunch says. “I think there are people who were stunned that a federal institution could tell the story with complexity, with truth, with tragedy, and sometimes resilience. So I think the kind of honesty of it appeals to people.”
Museum officials know that even many Washingtonians still haven’t managed to get through its doors. So as they celebrate the year anniversary, much of the programming and performances they’ve planned are taking place outdoors. Music and tours of the grounds will take place on both Saturday and Sunday, and the museum’s hours have been extended for those who have passes to go inside.Ahead of the celebration, we spoke with Bunch about what it’s been like to shepherd the museum through its first year. Our conversation has been edited for length and clarity.
Congratulations! You’ve made it to a year.
Thank you. That’s the easy part. The hard part was getting it open.
You worked on this for more than a decade before it opened. What was it like to finally see it open after all that work, gathering all those artifacts, building this up from the ground (really a giant hole in the ground) up?
In many ways, it was probably one of the most emotional moments of my life, both professional and personal. To actually not only fulfill a dream of all the staff, but a dream of generations who wanted this, it was really very humbling. But quite honestly it was also very motivating. Whenever you hit a bump or you worry about how you’re going to pull it off, recognizing that I didn’t want to let down all these other generations who had tried, that was a great motivating factor.
You had this moment celebrating the opening, you had the president and all these people who had traveled to D.C., and then it was day one on the grounds. What’s been your experience like shepherding it through this first year?
It’s been wonderful in that it’s become, within the first year already, part of the American lexicon. There’s almost no one that doesn’t know about the museum, doesn’t know about how hard it is to get in, or how much they enjoyed it. But also I think that what’s been so moving is that it’s clear after a year, the museum has already become a pilgrimage site—that there are thousands of people who come to share their story with their grandchildren or to connect over an object with people who shared maybe a comparable experience in the Civil Rights movement. I think it’s really become what we wanted, which was to be a place that was as much about today and tomorrow as it is about yesterday.
You’ve had a long museum career. How has this particular museum been different from previous places you’ve worked at?
It’s different in that you had to start from scratch—you didn’t have a collection, you didn’t have a building. What it allowed us to do is say “what should a 21st century museum that explores race, what should it do?” So it helped us put the way that museums interpret race on its end. Instead of saying “this is a story about the African American community,” we’re saying “this is a story about America through the lens of the African American community.” And so that’s very different.Being able to start from scratch allowed us to think innovatively about how do you actually collect by working with communities and going into peoples homes, in their trunks and attics. In essence, because we had nothing, it forced us to be different than most museums. We have to be more creative, more nimble.
I’ve heard you say this a number of times, that this is an “American story told through an African American experience.” That story is obviously still happening; what is the museum’s role in responding to that story as it occurs, as we’re seeing things like Charlottesville happen in real time.
First of all, part of the museum’s job is to collect today for tomorrow, so that there are things—like we’ve collected Black Lives Matter artifacts, we’ve collected things in Ferguson, things in Baltimore—and some of those are on display in the museum. Some maybe won’t be in display until a curator 30, 40, or 50 years from now wants to use it. Our goal is to make sure that it never happens, like it used to happen early in my career—there were exhibits I wanted to do, stories I wanted to tell, and museums didn’t have those collections. I wanted to make sure that future curators wouldn’t have that problem. Continue reading “As the National Museum of African American History and Culture Turns One, Director Lonnie Bunch Looks Back”→
MACON, Ga. — In Georgia, a Democratic lawmaker planning a run for governor promises to confront President Trump and what she calls the “fascists” surrounding him. In Maryland, a former president of the N.A.A.C.P. warns national Democrats not to take African-Americans for granted.
The mayor of Tallahassee, Fla., goes even further, declaring that Democrats have failed by fixating on centrist voters.In states from Massachusetts to Florida, a phalanx of young black leaders in the Democratic Party is striding into some of the biggest elections of 2018, staking early claims on governorships and channeling the outcry of rank-and-file Democrats who favor all-out battle with Mr. Trump and increasingly question his legitimacy as president.
By moving swiftly into the most contentious midterm races, these candidates aim to cement their party in forceful opposition to Mr. Trump and to align it unswervingly with minority communities and young people. Rather than muting their differences with the Republican Party in order to compete in states Mr. Trump won, like Georgia and Florida, they aim to make those distinctions starker. And, these Democrats say, they are willing to defy the conventional strategic thinking of the national party establishment, which has tended to recruit moderate, white candidates for difficult races and largely failed to help blacks advance to high office under President Barack Obama.
Stacey Abrams, the Democratic leader in the Georgia House of Representatives and a likely candidate for governor, said Democrats would win by confronting a president who was viewed with fear and hostility by the party’s base. Rather than pivoting to the center, Ms. Abrams, 43, said Democrats should redouble their focus on registering and energizing blacks, Hispanics and Asian-Americans, as well as young and low-income voters, who often decline to participate in politics.“There is a hunger for representation,” Ms. Abrams said in an interview. “There is a desire to make certain the state starts to serve everyone.”
At a “Macon Resists” town hall event in central Georgia last month, Ms. Abrams appealed to an auditorium of anxious Democrats with just that approach. The state, she said, is speeding toward a political crossroads, with Republicans “terrified of the evolving nature of our state.”“We can either move forward or we can let the president, and those fascists that surround him, pull us backwards,” she said. “I plan to go forward.”
Ms. Abrams, who filed paperwork this month to explore a run for governor, spent much of the event explaining the wrangling of the Georgia legislature in cool, pragmatic terms. But in the interview, she was adamant that Democrats could not “fake a conservative bent” in order to win the next election in her state, which voted for Mr. Trump by about six percentage points.“A Democrat wins an election in Georgia by speaking truth to power,” she said.In other states, black Democratic leaders have been just as pointed in their calls for the party to try something new.
Benjamin T. Jealous, a former president of the N.A.A.C.P., is exploring a campaign for governor of Maryland while warning the national party that minority voters could stay home if they are not inspired. Andrew Gillum, the mayor of Tallahassee and a declared candidate for governor of Florida, said Democrats had repeatedly erred by failing to “lean into our base” and by chasing votes nearer to the center instead.
These candidates have brandished data indicating that black turnout slumped in 2016, the first presidential election in a dozen years without Mr. Obama on the ballot: The Census Bureau found that black turnout last year dropped sharply from 2012.
The field of states where youthful black Democrats are competing in 2018 is likely to expand: In Massachusetts, Setti Warren, the 46-year-old mayor of Newton, is gearing up for a race against Gov. Charlie Baker, a hugely popular Republican. African-American candidates are more tentatively considering statewide races in Illinois, Nevada and Ohio. And in Virginia’s off-year elections, Justin Fairfax, a 38-year-old former prosecutor, is the favorite to become the Democratic nominee for lieutenant governor.
What can be said that hasn’t already been shared about Stevland Hardaway Morris? Better known around six galaxies as Stevie Wonder, the man, former child prodigy and one of the most successful musicians of the late 20th century turns 67-years-old today (May 13). For those not old enough to know the story of the “Lil’ Stevie Wonder,” here it goes: Signed to Motown’s Tamla label at the age of 11, he performed, wrote, sung and produced records for them all the way into the 2010s.
With iconic singles such as “Sir Duke,”“You Are the Sunshine of My Life,” “Isn’t She Lovely,” “Superstition,” and albums such as Talking Book, Innervisions and Songs in the Key of Life — Stevie has more than 30 U.S. top ten hits, won 25 Grammy Awards, helped to make Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.‘s birthday into a national holiday. He is an official “Messenger of Peace” for the United Nations and one of the all-time top artists for the Billboard Hot 100.
To us, he is simply a man who has been in touch with the divine spirit of the Creator, and has illuminated our worlds with his songs and legacy. From playing on street corners with his friend back in the days to throwing down at President Barack Obama‘s last White House party — Stevie Wonder’s impact on pop culture, politics, activism and music are the stuff of legends. For that, we celebrate his life and continuing revolution around the sun by championing these 15 stories that you should read to get more familiar with the architect behind so many classic jams.
On the morning of Donald Trump‘s inauguration, outgoing President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama unveiled The Obama Foundation, (https://www.obama.org) their first major project upon exiting the White House. The Foundation will be based in the south side of Chicago and facilitate projects “all over the city, the country and the world.”
In a video, the Obamas ask viewers to help shape the Foundation by contributing suggestions via the site’s “Your Voice” section. “After eight years in the White House, Michelle and I now rejoin all of you as private citizens,” Obama said. “We want to thank you once again from the bottom of our hearts for giving us the incredible privilege of serving this country that we love.” To watch it, click this link: https://youtu.be/ODVxuN6m6E8
Before they get to work on this massive endeavor, the former First Couple plan to enjoy a much-needed vacation. “First, we’re gonna take a little break,” Michelle Obama said. “We’re finally gonna get some sleep and take some to be with our family – and just be still for a little. So we might be online quite as much as you’re used to seeing us.”
President Barack Obama shortened the sentences of 330 federal prisoners on Thursday, less than 24 hours before Donald Trump takes office. With Thursday’s announcement, Obama has now granted commutations to 1,715 federal prisoners.
A review of Thursday’s list indicates that all of those 330 clemency cases were for drug or drug-related cases. Obama’s announcement followed the Tuesday commutations of the sentences of Chelsea Manning and of more than 200 federal prisoners charged with drug offenses.
“With this last act of mercy, President Obama has closed out a historic effort to restore some balance and fairness to a federal prison system that has caused needless destruction of thousands of lives and families,” Jessica Jackson Sloan, national director of the #cut50 initiative, said in a statement. “We continue to waste our precious resources to lock up people who have committed drug-related crimes that do not warrant decades, and certainly not life, in prison.”
Jackson Sloan said there are “still too many people incarcerated in the federal system who are not a threat to public safety” who would be “assets, mentors, and leaders in their communities if they were given the chance to come home.”Clemency lawyer Brittany Byrd, campaign director for #cut50, said Obama had “saved Trenton Copeland’s life” by granting him clemency.