January 17, 2005: Headlines: COS - Sierra Leone: Space: Television: Deleware Online: Keynote speaker Mae Jemison offered thoughts on King, diversity, science and life

Peace Corps Online: Directory: Sierra Leone: Special Report: Sierra Leone Peace Corps Medical Officer and NASA Mission Specialist Dr. Mae Jemison: January 17, 2005: Headlines: COS - Sierra Leone: Space: Television: Deleware Online: Keynote speaker Mae Jemison offered thoughts on King, diversity, science and life

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Keynote speaker Mae Jemison offered thoughts on King, diversity, science and life

Keynote speaker Mae Jemison offered thoughts on King, diversity, science and life

Keynote speaker Mae Jemison offered thoughts on King, diversity, science and life

Gathering to rekindle King's message
Speech, dance, song honor legacy
By ROBIN BROWN / The News Journal

More than 1,000 people gathered in downtown Wilmington on Sunday to honor and rekindle the legacy of Martin Luther King Jr.

Mae Jemison, a physician, award-winning scientist and Peace Corps volunteer who became the first black woman in space as a NASA astronaut, urged listeners at the DuPont Theatre to use each irreplaceable second of their lives to follow dreams and to help others through compassion, creativity and collective problem-solving.

Jemison offered thoughts on King, diversity, science and life as keynote speaker at the 15th annual DuPont Days of Celebration Educational Convocation, which continues today with programs for DuPont employees.

Sunday's program - free, open to the public and backed by supporters including The News Journal - began with a performance by actor Darryl van Leer portraying the slain civil rights leader. The event also featured comments by DuPont leaders on the value of diversity in teamwork and problem-solving, performances by dance troupes reflecting different ethnicities and presentation of awards to winners of King-themed contests in science, art and essay-writing for first- through 12th-graders.

The young dancers from the Dance Group of India, Dance Ministry of Alpha Baptist Church, Dragonfly Dance Club at the University of Delaware and the Christina Cultural Arts Center Modern Dance Ensemble sparked cheers and standing ovations, as did DuPont's own Diversity Choir, which ended the event with a hand-clapping, toe-tapping spiritual.

Eleven-year-old Malcolm Lowrie of Elkton, Md., liked the dancing best, while his brother, Michael, 15, was captivated by the portrayal of King. "That made me understand what it must have been like to actually hear Dr. King," he said.

But the crowd gave its biggest ovation to Jemison.

Echoing King's themes of personal action and community improvement, she urged listeners to follow their dreams and do what they can. "Each of us, individually and collectively, have the responsibility to contribute what we, uniquely, can contribute," she said.

The global-level scientist drew on her mother's career advice - "You can always dance if you're a doctor, but you can't always doctor if you're a dancer" - and wisdom she gained as a young fan of Star Trek. Jemison eventually guest-starred on the science fiction TV show that won King's support for its themes of racial and gender equality.

There is no truth, she pronounced, to what Star Trek's fictional Ferengi race, known for their determination to make a profit, set down as Rule of Acquisition No. 97: "Enough is never enough. ..."

Similarly, she said, the longstanding assumption of conflict between science and art is false.

"They are different parts of the same continuum," she said, describing both as part of human beings' attempt to find their place in the universe and understand universal experience as individuals.

"At the heart of science are the words, 'I think,' 'I wonder' and 'I understand,' " she said.

Today's challenging times call for King's principles of being open to all

ideas, learning from the past, meeting responsibilities and choosing the best paths for "deeds of lasting importance to the human race."

She was able to pursue her dream of becoming an astronaut, despite a childhood when astronauts were white men, largely because of parental support, she said. "I could see myself in space, though others could not. ... I believed in myself and the eventual goodness of this world."

In a nugget of feminism she attributed to being born a few years too late to be a true hippie, Jemison said she always liked a saying from the 1960s, that "any woman who strives to be like a man lacks ambition."

In another of many light moments, Jemison said that despite her accomplishments, she is still a cat lover who yearns to dance and hates to do dishes.

Loretta Taylor of Wilmington called Jemison's talk both delightful and inspirational.

"She was so grounded and down-to-earth" considering her achievements, Taylor said.

That, she said, made Jemison "a perfect choice" for Sunday's speaker because she embodies much of what King stood for and helped listeners renew their commitment to his principles and carry them back to their lives and communities.

Contact robin brown at 324-2856 or rbrown@delawareonline.com.

When this story was posted in January 2005, this was on the front page of PCOL:

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Story Source: Deleware Online

This story has been posted in the following forums: : Headlines; COS - Sierra Leone; Space; Television



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