2009.01.10: January 10, 2009: Headlines: Figures: COS - Sierra Leone: Staff: Science: Space: Florida Times-Union: Q&A with Mae Jemison

Peace Corps Online: Directory: Sierra Leone: Special Report: Sierra Leone Peace Corps Medical Officer and NASA Mission Specialist Dr. Mae Jemison: February 9, 2005: Index: PCOL Exclusive: Staffer Mae Jemison : 2009.01.10: January 10, 2009: Headlines: Figures: COS - Sierra Leone: Staff: Science: Space: Florida Times-Union: Q&A with Mae Jemison

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Q&A with Mae Jemison

Q&A with Mae Jemison

"With the term role model, we have done something in this society thatís very, very dangerous. We have used buzz words and jingoism to the extent that words that had perfectly good definitions have become so distorted. Psychologically, a role model was someone you learned your behavior from. Public figures arenít really that. Weíre not necessarily seeing them all the time. Really, I learned to stay up all night to finish a project not [from] some nebulous person, but because my mother, who was a schoolteacher, would also stay up all night to make sure she sewed our clothes. That translates into me being a medical student, where Iím going to learn itís not a big deal to do the work because I saw that behavior at home. Thatís what weíre missing." Astronaut Mae Jemison, the first Afro-American woman in space, served as a Peace Corps Medical Officer in Sierra Leone.

Q&A with Mae Jemison

Q&A with first black woman in space
Jemison says kids can learn more from their parents as role models

By David Hunt

Story updated at 6:05 AM on Saturday, Jan. 10, 2009


Mae Jemison, a business owner and college professor who, 16 years ago, became the first black woman to travel in space, sounds like quite the role model.

Just not according to her.

During a speech Friday in Jacksonville, Jemison said her accomplishments shouldnít compare to what kids can learn from mom and dad in their own homes.

Her remarks came during the 22nd annual Martin Luther King Jr. Breakfast, a Jacksonville Regional Chamber of Commerce event that drew a crowd of roughly 1,500 at the Prime Osborn Convention Center.

The event also showcased the latest race relations study from Jacksonville Community Council Inc., which identifies gaps among whites, blacks and Hispanics.

Whether or not the U.S. is closer to closing those gaps by having elected its first minority president, Jemison said Barack Obamaís inauguration Jan. 20 will be a step in a continuing journey.

ďIt is part of, but it is not the fulfillment of, Kingís dream,Ē she said.

After the speech, the Times-Union spent a few moments with Jemison to talk about role models, the economic dynamic of race and whether Kingís dream can ever be achieved.

In an Associated Press interview near the time of the Endeavor launch in 1992, you mentioned how you were wary of being just a role model for young black girls unless you were also a symbol for older white males who often decide what those girls will become. How do you see the needs of a role model today?

With the term role model, we have done something in this society thatís very, very dangerous. We have used buzz words and jingoism to the extent that words that had perfectly good definitions have become so distorted. Psychologically, a role model was someone you learned your behavior from. Public figures arenít really that. Weíre not necessarily seeing them all the time. Really, I learned to stay up all night to finish a project not [from] some nebulous person, but because my mother, who was a schoolteacher, would also stay up all night to make sure she sewed our clothes. That translates into me being a medical student, where Iím going to learn itís not a big deal to do the work because I saw that behavior at home. Thatís what weíre missing.

Part of the report that was published today identifies salary gaps among whites, blacks and Hispanics in Jacksonville. What threats do you think a struggling economy place on race relations?

I think any time you have severely wide gaps in capabilities ó you could say wealth ó or resources you wind up having problems. Very often schools are sort of supported at the level of wealth of the communities theyíre in. Somehow in the United States, we have to figure out how all kids can have the opportunity to develop their skills and talents. The schools ought to have the resources. The other part of it is we need to understand what weíre doing with our money in this country. The economic crisis is really there, but itís as much a crisis of confidence in each other and belief and trust. And also so much greed that weíve been looking at for years.

The part in your speech about Barack Obama being a step toward, but not fulfillment of, Kingís dream: What do you think it will take to fulfill that dream?

Thereís no single answer to that. We donít know all the components of the dream but we do know he started talking about poverty before he was killed. He started talking about the Vietnam War. We know that he talked about being responsible for our brothers and sisters around the world. It is further than this one single person. I donít know that itís important to say weíve gotten there. I donít think you can ever say weíve gotten there, at least within my lifetime, but we could certainly make strides and steps. Obamaís election is certainly a stride. Itís built on so many other things and so many other people. We have to keep moving.

david.hunt@jacksonville.com,




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Headlines: January, 2009; Staff Member Mae Jemison; Figures; Peace Corps Sierra Leone; Directory of Sierra Leone RPCVs; Messages and Announcements for Sierra Leone RPCVs; Staff; Science; Space





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Story Source: Florida Times-Union

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

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