“You can change the world if you set your minds to it,” said NASA Administrator Charles Bolden in a speech to about 150 students at the Tokyo Tech High School of Science and Technology. Bolden was very eager to engage with young people during his visit to Tokyo in December 2012. He encouraged the students to actively pursue their dreams, telling them, “Study hard, work hard, and don’t be afraid of failure.”
During his presentation at the high school, he talked about a number of NASA projects, describing in detail what it was like to participate in four space shuttle missions. He posed questions and interacted with the students throughout his presentation, making them feel as though they were actively participating in a dialogue rather than simply listening to a speech. He encouraged the young students to speak up after his presentation, reminding them that there are no “dumb questions.” At the end of the event, he left the students with the message, “You have to have big dreams and do the things that you want to do.”
Prior to the presentation, Bolden interacted directly with students while viewing displays of their science projects. He listened intently to their explanations and asked them questions about their research, offering advice on how to further pursue their studies.
In addition to his visit to Tokyo Tech High School, Bolden communicated with the Japanese public through an event titled “Ask the NASA Administrator on Facebook.” While in Tokyo, Bolden responded to questions from a wide range of people, from elementary school students to professionals. Over 100 questions were submitted on Facebook in total and seven of those were selected to be personally answered by Bolden through YouTube videos subtitled in Japanese.
Some of the most interesting questions answered by the NASA administrator were those asked by young people. When an elementary school student asked Bolden what she should do in order to fulfill her dream of becoming an astronaut, he offered the no-nonsense advice to “forget about being an astronaut for now and focus on becoming a very, very good student.”
The NASA administrator also received several questions about Japan’s space development. In his responses, he praised Japan and JAXA for developing the HTV, which has now transported cargo to the International Space Station three times, and the “Kibo” experiment module, a state-of-the-art capsule that allows astronauts on the space station to put experiments out into space and bring them back using a robotic apparatus. According to Bolden, “the Japanese have a very unique capability of producing things that are necessary that no other nation can do.”
During his short visit to Tokyo, Bolden took every opportunity to encourage the youth of Japan to pursue their dreams and never give up on the things that are important to them. When responding to a question about overcoming hardship, he said: “So my message to you would be, you can overcome any adversity if you’re willing to take the chance, if you’re willing to take the risk, but you’ve really got to prepare yourself. You’ve got to study really, really, really hard…. If you fail the first few times, who cares? Keep going at it …. Work hard and just don’t let failure keep you from doing things that you want to do.”