Setting A Good Example

Cheerleader Rhea Seddon, smile


Have you ever had the feeling that you were being watched?  I grew up that way.

When you live in a small town where your family has lived for generations, everyone knows your pedigree and knows who you are.  Do something wrong and your momma, grandmamma, and great-grandmamma are sure to find out.  It tends to keep you out of trouble.

I was shy and quiet when I entered high school.  Then, I was selected to be a cheerleader, and I was expected to be outgoing.  As a result, I learned, and I changed.

Going away to college let me “find myself,” – or really to “create myself.”  But what kind of person would I become?

Trailblazers; first six women astonauts


At medical school—one of a very few women—and then in a surgery residency where I was one of a kind, I was once again in the spotlight.  Could women become surgeons?  People were again “watching.”  As a trailblazer, I became aware that it was important to do an excellent job for those women who would want to follow in my footsteps.  But when I became one of the first six women astronauts, the importance of good behavior took on a whole new meaning.

Arriving at NASA, my “Thirty-Five New Guys” class (even though six of us were women) was required to attend media training.  We hadn’t been in the news spotlight before, and NASA wanted us to represent the Astronaut Corps – and our nation’s space program – well. It was enlightening and thought provoking, at least for me.  I remember being told to beware of the camera that kept rolling after the interview was over or the microphone inadvertently left open.  It seemed many important leaders and politicians had revealed a darker side when they thought no one saw or heard them.

Inflight Press Conference

The concept of “ethos” was used to guide our behavior.  Ethos relates to one’s character.  We were supposed to always “appear to be” above reproach.  It occurred to me, why not BE of good character rather than appearing to be?  That seemed to be a better approach.

As my NASA career progressed, young women and girls always wanted to know how I had become an astronaut and later how I had achieved success in my subsequent careers.  I had become a “role model:” an awesome responsibility.  No one wants his or her “hero” to be an unkind, sham of a good person.  Over the years, I met my own “heroes,” and the ones I sought to emulate were ones whose integrity showed through.  They were the same off-camera as they were on.  No pretending for the fans.

The person I have become…

I am a better person for having that “media training.”  It gave me a whole new aspect on the kind of person I want to be.

So, who is watching you – and what do they see?

– Rhea

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