CAMP KINSER, OKINAWA, Japan -- Former Marine and astronaut, Maj. Gen. Charles F. Bolden Jr., offered his unique insights and experience to elementary school children on Okinawa recently.
Bolden spoke at Kinser, Stearley Heights, Zukeran and Killin Elementary Schools, bringing three decades of experience from a jet pilot flying more than 100 combat missions in Vietnam from 1972 to 1973, to 680 hours in space from 1986 to 1990. His message was one of hope and inspiration.
"I did not get to be an astronaut until I was 32," Bolden told children at Kinser Elementary School. "I didn't think I could do it, I was afraid of them rejecting me; that's why I didn't even try at first."
Bolden compared his fear of being turned down for the astronaut program to that of children who are afraid to go out on a limb. His objective was to impress on the children the importance of setting goals to work for and not being afraid of failure.
Bolden used his experiences working toward becoming an astronaut as examples for those who came to hear him speak. He explained to everyone that studying and working hard was the only way to reach the high goals they set for themselves.
For 6th-grader Taylor Ferguson, the messages of "don't fear failure" and "work and study hard," made more sense coming from someone who obviously had to do exactly that.
"You have to be really smart to go out into space," he said. "It's pretty obvious he's not a dumb person, and he's not afraid of failure, because if something failed in space, he could die."
Ferguson was one of dozens of Marines, family members and children who filled the bleachers and the floor of the Kinser Elementary School gymnasium to hear Bolden speak and to see some of the photographs he took in space.
For Ferguson's brother, Alex, a 5th-grader at Kinser Elementary, one of the best parts of the presentation was the collection of pictures Bolden showed. It was through Bolden's photos from space that Alex received the messages of good work and study habits.
"(Bolden) couldn't have gone into space and gotten those neat pictures if it didn't mean a lot to him," Alex said. "He worked really hard and got to do what he wanted."