07/24/12 — A heroine: Sally Ride was role model for young women

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A heroine: Sally Ride was role model for young women

Her claim to fame was a seat on the space shuttle.

At least, that is what most people remember Sally Ride for.

But there was much more.

She was the first woman astronaut in 1983 -- and inspired generations of young women to consider what had been to that point, a man's world.

She was a pioneer.

And that role is not an easy one.

Being the first in any profession is putting yourself under a microscope. Every move you make, every decision, is subject to not just the normal scrutiny, but an extra measure of examination just because of who you are.

Sally Ride knew that and behaved accordingly. She understood that she was not just a member of the NASA space team. She was a representative of not only the other women who worked with her, but of the generations of young women who would someday make the same choice to reach for the stars.

We celebrate heroes of all kinds in this country for extraordinary achievements.

But we forget sometimes that being "first" can be as momentous an accomplishment.

Sally Ride was one of those people whose life might not be in every line of the history books, but whose example paved the way for others who would come later.

She helped make it "cool" and acceptable for young women to venture into the space program -- and helped add new names to the list of scientists and astronauts.

She won't be one of those names that will come easily to the tongue generations from now. And that will be because it will be nothing extraordinary for a young woman to decide to pursue a career in the sciences.

But it is important to honor those who came first -- and that is why Sally Ride, whose life ended much too soon, is someone worth remembering.

Published in Editorials on July 24, 2012 12:15 PM