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Hidden Figures Is Proof You Can Reach for the Stars

I saw Hidden Figures on Friday, the based-on-true-events story about three NASA employees who faced incredible odds yet still came out ahead thanks to their courage, dedication and ingenuity.

Back two weeks ago, knowing I’d be seeing the movie, I already planned to write a blog post about it. After hearing rave reviews from trusted sources, I figured I’d use this space to call out history books for holding back on such stories.

After all, if we taught more heart-racing, tear-jerking, there’s-no-way-that-really-happened! kind of details in our history classes, how many more students would develop a passion for the subject?

How many more adults would understand the reasons – both good and bad – why we’re where we are today, and be able to handle the present and influence the future better?

None of that is not me trying to vilify historians. I understand they have a tough job. There’s millennia worth of information to cover across 197 million square miles of the Earth’s surface. (Yes, most of that is water, but there were plenty of nautical adventures too.)

But just because it’s a tough job to convey that properly – intriguingly – doesn’t mean they’re not up to the task. As the real characters behind Hidden Figures so aptly show, there really is a will where there’s a way.

Again, the movie is about three NASA employees. Who happened to be women. And black. During the 1960s. In a still-segregated Virginia. We’re talking about “colored” bathrooms, drinking fountains and coffee pots here.

Yet these amazing individuals defied their circumstances to lead the way in mathematics, computer science and engineering. Pioneering American astronaut John Glenn actually refused to go up in space without the one woman’s “all clear.”

Katherine G. Johnson, Dorothy Vaughan and Mary Jackson weren’t rude about making their dreams – and history – happen. They weren’t showy.

But they were tenacious.

And that’s what struck me most about Hidden Figures: the fact that they simply didn’t take no for an answer. Understanding the obstacles, they put in the time, research and work necessary to make those obstacles obsolete.

They paved the way for other people – black and white, women and men – to literally reach for the stars if they so choose.

Which begs two questions…

No. 1: What’s your dream in life?

And No. 2: What in the world is your excuse for not just going for it already?

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