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Opinion: Sally Ride, A Role Model For The Ages


Monday was a very sad day. Sally Ride died.

She not only died, but she passed from a horrific disease, pancreatic cancer. With all that the world claims to have conquered with its alleged-advanced sciences, medicines and technologies, why there hasn’t been more progress in tackling the human devastation caused by cancer, particularly common cancers like pancreatic cancer, is beyond baffling. It’s inexcusably troublesome for those afflicted now and for those who will be afflicted in the future.

The argumentative plea for a long-awaited cure, however, is unfortunately too late for Sally Ride and so many others.

Sally Ride was much more than the noted-first woman in space due to her famed shuttle adventure in 1983 on the Challenger. She is also credited for having changed so many antiquated beliefs regarding what a woman could and couldn’t do in society. As the nation was beginning to get used to women starting to take on the role of policeman and fireman and other male-engaging jobs in society, Ride reached new heights by bounding far above and beyond all others by becoming a high-profile astronaut.

Rather than rest easy after her accomplishment and newfound fame, she made it her life’s business to encourage girls and young women to go after their dreams – even if their dream was in an alleged man’s part of the world. She is credited with reaching and motivating many girls who otherwise never would have dared even think to accomplish what they’ve accomplished.

In particular, she encouraged them to enter various scientific fields to do research and make discoveries that would improve mankind. Sally Ride designed her influence on girls to encompass much more than simply the science of astronomy and becoming an astronaut.

I remember being a young teacher when Sally Ride made her welcomed-mark on Americans. I put a poster of her on my classroom wall along with the then-current president, Ronald Reagan, and civil rights leader Martin Luther King, Jr. Sometime later, these posters were joined by a new local basketball star, Michael Jordan of the Chicago Bulls, and so many other contemporary role models.

While it was easy to find male role models of any race for the young men in my classroom, it could be a challenge at times to find a female role model that would capture the young female students’ imaginations. Sally Ride filled that void. She was in-the-news, extremely-admired, contemporarily “hip”, smart, ambitious, pretty, and extremely successful. She was everything a role model should be – and more – for young people – and for others.

Sally Ride, 61, who received a B.A. in English and a B.S. in physics at Stanford University, was appropriately remembered yesterday by President Barack Obama when he said that she was “a national hero and a powerful role model” who “inspired generations of young girls to reach for the stars. Sally’s life showed us that there are no limits to what we can achieve, and I have no doubt that her legacy will endure for years to come.”

Looking around our nation with the extremely elevated crime and violence, it’s obvious that we need more heroines – as well as heroes – with Sally Ride’s brave and courageous character.  Her inspiration and legacy must live on to create the heroines – and heroes – of the future.   

About Scott Paulson

Scott Paulson writes political commentary for and teaches English at a community college in the Chicago area. The views and opinions expressed in this post are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of CBS Local.


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