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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  1. Dr Seddon ,
    My name is Kim Smith. My husband, Van & I , bought the home on 1316 Richland Place here in Murfreesboro almost 4 years ago. At the time of purchase, we were told by the realtor that your parents were the original owners of it.
    My 7 year old granddaughter, Elsie Jane, is currently studying planets, the moon, and space travel in 1st grade science. She was telling me all about it today because she says science and art are her favorite subjects. (She had told her mom that “she couldn’t become an astronaut because only men could be astronauts”. My daughter then told her no way, that is not true. ) So I told her that there was a little girl whose family lived in our house who grew up to become one of the first women astronauts to go into space. Needless to say, she squealed with excitement !! She asked me if I thought “her room” in our home could have been your room? She was truly so excited at the thought of having the same bedroom (when she spends time here) as the little girl who grew up to become an astronaut! She is coming to stay with us during her spring break in March. So I decided to look you up online to find any books about you to add to her huge collection of books. I was so excited to find your website and see that you have one on your space travels I’m sure it’s not one meant for children’s reading, but she has always loved being read to. So I’m going to order it off your website and hope it gets here in time for her visit in about a month. I know she will love showing it off to her classmates and probably tell them her new story about her grandparents living in a house where a little girl who grew up to become an astronaut once lived !
    I’m sure this is a weird email for you to receive. I know you have been an inspiration to many women who wanted careers in areas that normally only “men” were in, like a surgeon and an astronaut. I’m sure that reading my granddaughter your book will also inspire her to know she can work hard and become whatever she wants to be when she grows up! Thank you for your time. Sincerely, Kim Smith

  2. Spent some time with Story Musgrave last week he had some very nice things to say about you and Hoot.

  3. Dr. Seddon—Greetings from Chicago! A long time ago, my mother, Margaret Rudin Beam, visited Wright Patterson Air Force Base, for one of your acknowledgement presentations. She was very pleased that she made the trip. Our grandmothers are sisters!

    Wishing you and your family all the best for a joyful Christmas! John Beam


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