By Alexandria Nardoni
Jerry C. Elliott, a physicist for NASA, came to Cal Poly Pomona on Thursday to speak about pursuing dreams as part of CPP’s American Indian Science and Engineering Society speaker series.The series is sponsored by the Native American Student Center.
Elliott came to speak to CPP students to discuss the importance of education and its impact on the mind in a presentation called “Dream”Believe…Achieve: Excellence through Education and the Discovery of Your Mind.”
“Your mind is more powerful than any computer ever invented,” said Elliott. “We [NASA] got to the moon with our minds and then our feet. We had to think our way to the moon.”
Gabrielle Garcia, club president for AISES, introduced Elliott and informed the audience that he was the first Native American to work with NASA.
According to Garcia, Elliott is of the Osage and Cherokee tribal nations in Oklahoma.
Garcia went on to discuss more of Elliott’s accomplishments, from being the first Native American to graduate with a bachelor’s degree in physics from the University of Oklahoma, to being lead flight controller on the Apollo 13 mission.
It was during this mission that he received the Medal of Freedom Award for safely bringing the Apollo 13 spacecraft back to Earth.
Elliott is also the founding member of the AISES program, which encourages Native Americans, along with Alaskan Natives, to pursue careers in science and engineering technology.
Once Elliott took the stage, he made the audience laugh with a spoof video of the landing on the moon: the Apollo 13 mission.
He briefly discussed the timeline of events he encountered until his employment with NASA.
“When I was five years old, I had a dream,” said Elliott, “I had a dream I was going to launch a man on the moon.”
Inspired to be a physicist like Albert Einstein, Elliott pursued his dream, went to school, graduated and took his first job after college as a police deputy sheriff.
Elliott said as long as one keeps working on achieving a dream, it can happen
Even though he did not graduate and obtain a physicist job upon graduation, he persevered by making his own choices and eventually received a job offer from NASA, a job offer that helped him achieve his dream.
“We control our own destiny and I stand here in front of you, today, because of my education, that was essential in making my dreams come true,” said Elliott. “Quitters never win, you have to keep the faith…[and] never, never give up.”
While telling the audience about his background, he stressed how education teaches people how to think. Elliott also discussed the importance of living in the present: a mentality he has carried throughout his whole career.
“Greatness is not how much you’ve accomplished in life,” said Elliott. “It is not determined by what you have accomplished but by what you have overcome…You are only as good as you are today.”
While obstacles occur on the path to achieving one’s dreams, another philosophy Elliott upholds is that instead of perceiving a problem in a negative way, he urged students to view problems as opportunities and never take on the role as a victim.
Elliott also called on students to convert limitations into choices. When opportunities arise, it is the time to make choices.
“If you do not like the hand life has dealt you, you have the power of choice to change it,” said Elliott. “That’s the beauty of it all.”
David Salazar, a second-year mechanical engineering student, attended Elliott’s speech.
“I saw the event on CPP’s homepage and I wanted to come out and hear him speak.” said Salazar. “He was very inspirational and it helped me think more about attaining my dreams. I want to do what he is doing.”
Elliott advocated that at any age, people must continue to explore and discover new things, break limitations and make the choices he or she wants to make.
Juan Tinoco, a fifth-year aerospace engineering student, also has dreams to work with NASA.
“Everything he [Elliott] says is just incredible; we [students] always have the chance and opportunity to talk to people who have made history here at school,” said Tinoco. “It is my dream to work for NASA and work on a big project that will make history one day too.”
Lindsey Floyd/The Poly Post
Jerry C. Elliot
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