Former NASA astronaut speaks words of encouragement to community

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WASHINGTON COUNTY, Fla. (WJHG/WECP) - The Martin Luther King, Jr. celebration in Washington County included what organizers call an important speaker, tasked to encourage the youth to remember the sky is not always the limit.

New Vizh-Uhn Inc. welcomed their guest speaker for the Martin Luther King, Jr. celebratory service on Monday by singing, "Lift Every Voice and Sing." Shortly after Winston Scott walked to the stage at the Washington County Agricultural Education Center in Chipley. Scott is a former NASA astronaut and retired U.S. Navy Captain.

"I'm gonna talk about my space flight experiences and then try to tie that in with today's Martin Luther King holiday theme," said Scott. The overall theme for the event was "Speak Up For Yourself." Scott shared stories of when he spoke up during his time with NASA and how it changed his experience there.

"Speak up, not necessarily in words, but in actions," explained Scott.

African Americans working at NASA is a popular subject after the recent release of the film "Hidden Figures." The story details the experiences of three African-American women who worked for NASA during the space race.

"Now, of course, I didn't know any of those ladies. That was long before my time," said Scott, "but it just goes to illustrate how many wonderful stories we have that are still left untold and we need to bring those stories to the forefront." Scott mentioned that he saw the film days before his speaking arrangement and thoroughly enjoyed it.

The big takeaways from Scott's remarks Monday were the importance of education and the belief in oneself. An idea that seemed to hit home with 15-year-old Elijah Hooks.

"He just brought an experience to me that touched my heart," said Hooks. "I can be an astronaut one day. You can be an astronaut, anyone can be an astronaut."

Scott estimates about 400 people have ever flown into space. Scott himself is the 7th African-American to do so.