Elliott graduates hear from NASA

The deputy administrator of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration likened graduates of the Elliott School of International Affairs to the missions and history of NASA in her keynote address at the school’s graduation ceremony Friday.

Lori Beth Garver delivered her remarks in the Smith Center, sharing lessons from her career path with the graduating class. Garver said that her 1989 graduation from GW with a master’s degree in science, technology and public policy prepared her for the missions and work of NASA, where she is now the administration’s second in command.

Graduation is an “inflection point,” Garver said, a point where the graduates’ steering wheel is perfectly straight, waiting for a direction. No matter which direction they take, Garver said, the Elliott School has taught its graduates two important lessons for success – lessons she tied into her experiences working at NASA.

Garver discussed NASA’s 1970 Apollo 13 mission as the program’s greatest success, one that imparted a valuable lesson for graduates – a lesson of the importance of collective action. Apollo 13 was originally intended to be the third manned-moon landing, but after an oxygen tank exploded and put the lives of three astronauts in serious danger, NASA worked tirelessly for four days to bring the men safely back to Earth. The mission is a reminder of the best characteristics in all of us, Garver said.

“It shows the potential of what we can all accomplish when we come together,” Garver said, adding that Apollo 13 exemplified the important characteristics of “determination, creativity, stamina [and] teamwork.”

Garver also spoke of NASA’s dedication to exploration, a drive she said was also in all graduates of the Elliott School.

“You’ve set goals and achieved them, you’ve taken risks and advice,” Garver told graduates.

Student speaker Thomas Robert Luley outlined the most important lessons he learned as an undergraduate at GW, including the importance of avoiding procrastination, and the value of standing by your principles.

“The most important thing I’ve learned,” he added, “is that arguing with your mother is always a terrible idea.”

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