Lesson in reaching for the Stars: Remembering Christa McAuliffe and Ron McNair

Space Shuttle Challenger Explosion; Carla Franklin

Space Shuttle Challenger Explosion

On January 28, 1986, right before lunchtime, my elementary school class was finishing up a science lesson (I don’t remember what we were learning) and preparing to watch the space shuttle launch.  Several minutes later, a look of horror spread across my elementary school teacher face after another teacher, who had run into our classroom crying, whispered something in her ear.  Without saying anything to the captive audience of 4th graders, my teacher ran over to our classroom TV and turn it on. We saw a plume of smoke where there should have been a space shuttle named The Challenger.

Photo of Christa McAuliffe from the Space Shuttle Challenger; Carla Franklin

Photo of Christa McAuliffe from the Space Shuttle Challenger

In 1985, Christa McAuliffe was selected from more than 11,000 applicants to participate in the NASA Teacher in Space Project and she was scheduled to become the first teacher in space. As a member of the pace Shuttle Challenger mission, she was planning to conduct experiments and teach two lessons from Space Shuttle Challenger. On January 28, 1986, her spacecraft disintegrated 73 seconds after launch. After her death, schools and scholarships were named in her honor, and in 2004 she was awarded the Congressional Space Medal of Honor.

Photo of Ron McNair from the Space Shuttle Challenger; Carla Franklin

Photo of Ron McNair from the Space Shuttle Challengershuttle, The Challenger.

Dr. Ronald McNair, PhD, was one of the crew members who died in the space shuttle challenger explosion. He was only 35, yet he achieved so much in his short life.  In 1971 he received a bachelor’s degree in engineering physics, magna cum laude, from North Carolina A&T State University.

McNair was a member of Omega Psi Phi Fraternity. In 1976, he received his Ph.D. in physics from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology becoming nationally recognized for his work in the field of laser physics.

He flew on STS-41-B aboard Challenger in February 1984, as a mission specialist becoming the second African American to fly in space.

In reflecting back on the legacy of Dr. Ron McNair, PhD, and Christa McAuliffe,  I am inspired by two ordinary people who made extraordinary contributions to  society because the pursues their dreams.

“Baby its Cold Outside”: Tips on protecting skin from the cold

Frozen Fountain (photo by CBS News)

Frozen Fountain (photo by CBS News)

This morning New Yorkers awoke to balmy, arctic temperatures, as one of the coldest winter seasons in the past 2 years continues in the Northeast.

By 7:00am, temperatures hovered around 6 degrees Fahrenheit; a frigid start for those of us who have to venture out to the office on this beautiful Monday morning.

This weather can take an unfortunate toll on the skin, due to the low humidity and cold temperatures.  Since hibernating for the next 3-months is not an option for most people, experts recommend the following 5 tips to protect skin from the cold weather:

Tips on Skin Winterization

Tips on Skin Winterization (photo from IBlogBeauty.com)

  • Use a humidifier at home to improve humidity in the evenings and at night during sleep;
  • Drink lots of water during the day to stay hydrated;
  • Use oil-based moisturizers daily, on the body and face (Aveeno oatmeal based lotion is my fav);
  • Avoid hot showers.  Take luke-warm showers instead.  (Honestly, I can’t give up the hot showers…so this is a tip that I will be avoiding.  LOL)
  • Don’t forget about the nails and lips.  Keep them moisturized.

Remebering Haiti: One year after the earthquake

Haiti - 1 year later

(c) Copyright Wyatt Gallery

Haiti is an amazing Caribbean country with a strong cultural legacy and proud revolutionary history dating back to the trans-Atlantic slave trade.  Under the leadership of Toussaint L’Overture, a former slave and brilliant military mind, Haiti defeated Napoleon and liberated itself from France.  No other Caribbean nation achieved such a feat against a colonizer.  Over two-hundred years later, Haiti once again finds itself in need of revolution.  One year after the earthquake there is so much still to be done.  Dependence on global aid and political corruption have contributed to a vicious cycle of poverty that preceded the quake.  Last year’s natural disaster added further devastation to an already fragile economy.

Tent Life : Haiti

Tent Life : Haiti

However, glimmers of hope and change abound in Haiti, as captured in these recent photos by photographer Wyatt Gallery.  Gallery’s new book, Tent Life: Haiti, focuses on the empowerment and beauty of this country.  I believe that reconstruction and positive change lay just on the horizon for Haiti.  Haitians, both in Haiti and the diaspora, are drawing on their ancestral strength and will soon reclaim their legacy.

“…..Bêchons, bêchons, bêchons joyeux / Pour les Aïeux, pour la Patrie….”
(c) Photos by Wyatt Gallery – http://www.tentlifehaiti.com/

What is Free Speech…what is it not?

What is Free Speech? What is it not?  Those are critical questions for which so many have differing opinions.  The First Amendment provides Americans with the right to freedom of speech (in addition to freedom of press, freedom of religion, freedom of assembly and freedom of petition).  As a framework created by our founding fathers to provide general protection for all citizens from government abuses and ensure individuals the rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, the Constitution is one of our country’s most important legislative documents.  The first 10 amendments form The Bill of Rights (which was later amended to guarantee basic rights to women, non-whites, and the poor).  Freedom of speech, as granted by the first amendment, gives the general right to everyone – from scholars, to idiots, to racists, to regular people – to speak out on almost any topic.  However, this right does not allow people to engage in criminal behavior nor does it guarantee anonymity.  Far too many misguided individuals simplify an amendment that constitutional scholars have spent the past 230+ years debating and refining (this last point is critical in understanding that the constitution is a living document and why it has been “amended” over the past 230 year).  Lest we forget that the 13th and 19th amendments had to be explicitly added in order to abolish slavery and to provide women the right to vote, respectively.

Free speech in America, as outlined in the First Amendment, is not limitless and comes with boundaries and responsibilities. It does not guarantee anonymity nor does it protect criminal behavior.  For example, the first amendment does not protect the following behaviors:

  • Yelling “fire” in a crowed theater.
  • Drilling a hole in a hotel room wall, video taping an innocent woman undressing, and then posting it to the internet.
  • Creating a blog falsely accusing your husband/wife of pedophilia because you are angry that they left you for a another mate.
  • Creating a blog falsely accusing your ex-boyfriend of giving you a disease because he broke up with you before the holidays.
  • Posting false claims against a business that you feel wronged you because you dislike their customer service.
  • Illegally distributing copyrighted software, video, images and music.
  • Posting false claims against a competitor business to gain competitive advantage in a given market.
  • Saying negative things about former employees, in an effort to damage their ability to work in the future.
  • Defaming someone and spreading false and malicious information about him/her because he/she was not interested in dating you, being your friend, or because you are jealous.
  • Anonymously sending harassing emails because you are angry or want to get someone’s attention.
  • Anonymously taking on someone’s identity to slander him/her or commit crimes or post false and malicious things on the internet.
  • Video taping someone (a roommate, for example) in a compromising or intimate situation, without his/her knowledge, and streaming/posting the video to the internet or live chat.

All of the actions listed above have been done (and continue to be done) anonymously, on the web by misguided individuals, cowards, and criminals.  Harassment, defamation, hate speech, identity theft, child pornography are rampant on the internet and are posted by anonymous persons who believe they cannot be traced.  When those engaging this this behavior are tracked down, they often hide behind the “right of free speech”.

We must remember that all American citizens have basic, unalienable rights granted by the Declaration of Independence.  It grants us the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness; this right is not secondary to free speech. None of the Constitutional amendments protect criminal behavior, and all are limited by civil and criminal laws, for which we should all be thankful.

True anonymous speech is a wonderful and important privilege that we have in the country.  Whistle blowing protects consumers against corporate greed and malfeasance.  It allows citizens to report crimes in their communities without fear of negative repercussion.  It protects citizens against government backlash.  Anonymous voting allows citizens to freely express their political beliefs.  Anonymous free speech is a positive and productive factor in our society and is not the same as criminal behavior.  Whistle-blowing and voting are not the same as anonymous criminal behavior (like harassment, child porn, defamation, ect).  Only cowards and criminals compare the two.

As I enter this new year, I do so grateful for all of my blessings in life and proud to be a citizen of the United States.  Given the complexity of the world wide web, I can only hope that my fight against online harassment and defamation helps others who are dealing with similar issues.  What is free speech to me?  Free speech is a wonderful right that I have as an American…that does not protect harassers, pedophiles, and other criminals.