Never underestimate the power of hard work and a plan that fits on one-piece of paper, advised Mark Kelly, an American astronaut, U.S. Navy Captain, and husband of U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, who was injured in a mass shooting in January 2011, when he spoke to Lipscomb students in the weekly Gathering on Thursday, Nov.3.
Kelly, who insists he is really only an average pilot, outlined for students how he ended up becoming an American hero through sheer hard work and persistence.
"We all learn at different rates, and how well you do at the beginning, does not indicate what you can become later," he told the student body in Allen Arena.
Later that day, Kelly spoke to a smaller group of the Lipscomb community at an on-campus lunch, and was then the guest speaker at the annual Associates Gala, held at the Country Music Hall of Fame for Lipscomb donors and supporters.
Kelly is an experienced naval aviator who flew combat missions during the Gulf War. The winner of many awards, including the Defense Superior Service Medal and Distinguished Flying Cross, Kelly was selected as an astronaut in 1996.
He flew his first of four missions in 2001 aboard Space Shuttle Endeavour, the same space shuttle that he commanded on its final flight in May 2011. He has also led Discovery and is one of only two individuals who have visited the International Space Station on four different occasions.
Kelly became the center of international attention after the January 2011 assassination attempt on his wife. Kelly and Giffords have written a memoir, to be released Nov. 15, that shares their inspiring story of hope and resilience with the world.
Despite his achievements today, Kelly said that when he first learned to fly, he barely passed the test to become certified to land a plane on an aircraft carrier. He also related a story where he failed to communicate with his teammates and almost got shot down over Iran.
Applying such lessons to his long aeronautics career, Kelly said, "There's no substitute for hard work and persistence. Just because you are not the best now, doesn't mean you can't be the best later.”
In response to a student question, Kelly said that looking down on Earth from the Space Station does make you realize how fragile the planet is. With seven billion people now living on the planet, "we have to be really aware of what we are doing to our environment," he said.
He also noted that Earth looks like a planet with no borders from space, noting that only a few national borders can be distinguished by agriculture and topography.