By Robert Sumwalt
On March 17, the NTSB kicked off our inaugural Speakers Series for employees. The Speakers Series is intended to highlight some of the most distinguished individuals from the fields of transportation safety, leadership, and technology.
For our inaugural speaker, we could not have found a more engaging or dynamic individual than NASA Administrator Charles F. Bolden, Jr. In the span of one hour, we travelled from the earth to space and back, as the Administrator took us on a journey from his childhood home in Columbia, South Carolina, to orbiting the Earth as an astronaut aboard the Space Shuttle.
By recounting the emotional experience of playing quarterback in his high school championship football game hours after learning that President Kennedy had been assassinated, Administrator Bolden shared how that experience helped shaped his views on leadership, motivation, and service to country. Administrator Bolden also talked about the unique challenges he later faced as a member of NASA’s astronaut program and how those challenges provided opportunities for personal growth. Whether he was conducting science experiments in zero-gravity or commanding a Space Shuttle mission, each situation tested him physically, mentally, and intellectually.
Perhaps the highlight came, when Administrator Bolden singled out in the audience Bryce Stephens, the seven-year-old son of NTSB Chief Information Security Officer Chris Stephens. The Administrator challenged Bryce to apply himself in school, pursue his dreams, and predicted that one day Bryce might even walk on Mars.
Administrator Bolden has set the bar high for future Speakers Series lecturers. The staff of the NTSB look forward to gathering on Wednesday, June 22, to hear from author, pilot, and ABC News aviation analyst John Nance as our next Speakers Series guest.
Robert L. Sumwalt has been a Member of the NTSB since 2006. Through his initiative the NTSB Speakers’ Series was created in 2011. Working with a committee of NTSB staff members, he identifies and invites outstanding individuals to share their stories with federal employees.