By Merissa Anderson
On April 17, one of the largest crowds the Dillon Lecture Series has ever seen, more than 4,000 people, gathered to listen to astronaut Capt. Scott Kelly, as he inspired the crowd with his speech and reminded them that “the sky is not the limit”.
From the second Kelly stepped on stage to a standing ovation, he told the story of how he transformed himself from class-skipping college student to a beloved and historic astronaut with nearly six million current twitter followers.
“When I was a kid growing up, I was a really, really bad student,” Kelly said, speaking to the hundreds of elementary to high school students from surrounding school districts. “I wanted to do anything else besides be a student.”
Kelly told of his difficulties with ADD and ADHD throughout his primary schooling before explaining that these issues continued to plague him in his first years of college.
“I was still struggling,” Kelly said. “I couldn’t pay attention. I couldn’t study. Eventually, I’m not even going to class anymore.”
But one book from his campus bookstore transformed his life.
“One day, I’m wandering across campus and happen to go into the bookstore to buy gum or something, and I see this book on the shelf,” Kelly said. “I was interested enough that I took my gum money, purchased the book, went back to my dorm room and laid there for the next three days on my unmade dorm room bed and read the stories.”
The book was “The Right Stuff” by Tom Wolfe which told of how astronauts during earlier space travel reached their success.
“If I could just become a better student, maybe I could one day become an astronaut,” Kelly said.
And he did.
The rest of Kelly’s speech followed his adventures and mishaps that he experienced during his more than 500 days in space, while the crowd, packed shoulder-to-shoulder, listened intently on.
Although a career as an astronaut requires intense focus and drive to study, Kelly certainly kept his humor throughout his travels, and he sprinkled his speech with plenty of jokes to keep the crowd entertained and smiling.
“If we can dream it, we can do it,” Kelly said.
“If we have a plan, if we’re willing to take the the risks and make mistakes, if we focus on the things we can control and ignore what we can’t, if we test the status-quo and if we work as a team, because teamwork makes the dream work, and if we do that, then the sky is definitely not the limit.”