Next month marks the 30th anniversary of Sally Ride’s historic voyage on the space shuttle Challenger as the first American woman in space. In the three decades between that journey and her death last year, Sally worked tirelessly to instill a love for science in students.
We share Sally’s recognition that science and engineering have the power to transform lives and address the challenges of the 21st century, from energy and information to agriculture and medicine. Furthermore, our economy and America’s ability to compete globally require a workforce that has technical skills and an ability to innovate. The majority of jobs in the coming decades will require some knowledge of science, technology, engineering and math (STEM). Yet, far too few students are pursuing these fields of study.
We were proud to work with Sally to address this challenge.
Together, we created the Sally Ride Science Academy to prepare young people for careers in STEM-related industries. In just four years, we have helped train close to 9,000 teachers across the country who are having a positive impact in today’s classrooms, introducing students to the wonders of science and the diversity of STEM-related careers. Sally also worked with us as a founding board member of the National Math and Science Initiative.
Her dedication to STEM education will live on because the mission is so critical to our nation’s future.
In that same spirit, I was pleased to see the White House’s announcement that President Obama intends to award Sally the nation’s highest civilian honor, the Presidential Medal of Freedom, later this year. The honor is fully deserved.
That announcement came on the same day that NASA and Sally Ride Science hosted a national tribute to Sally at the Kennedy Center in Washington, DC. She was honored not just for her lifelong commitment to space exploration, but for her dedication to improving science education and supporting science literacy.
Former NASA astronaut and space shuttle commander Pam Melroy summed up the significance of Sally’s contributions perfectly: “Her achievements in space inspired a generation of young women, and her achievements in STEM education will pass that legacy of inspiration on to future generations.”
ExxonMobil and Sally Ride Science produced a video about Sally’s legacy as part of the national tribute, and I invite you to watch it below.