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Top 10 Reasons Sally Ride was an American Role Model

By Amy Qualliotine, Outreach Associate

I remember how every day in elementary school we’d march down the hallway in our (mostly) single file line, keeping our heads facing forward and our hands (again, mostly) to ourselves.  When we rounded the corner between the gym and the main office there was a framed 8 x 10 portrait of Sally Ride hanging on the wall – nobody else, just Sally Ride.

I distinctly remember wondering what that woman with the serious hair-doo was doing up on the wall all by herself – I knew she wasn’t the president, she wasn’t our principal, and she wasn’t on Nickelodeon, so that pretty much left my eight-year-old self with no other options.  

I eventually learned about Sally Ride, and I continue to respect and draw inspiration from the incredible advancements she made as an American and as a woman.  Being the first American woman in space is an incredible accomplishment, but Sally Ride is so much more than that.  I can only speculate as to why Sally Ride’s was the lone picture up in our hallway, but I have a strong feeling these 10 reasons may be part of it.

Ten Reasons Why Sally Ride is a Fantastic Role Model

  1. The possibility of rejection didn’t discourage her: She believed in herself enough to answer that infamous newspaper ad seeking individuals for the space program.
  2. She told it like it was: When hounded with questions about being a woman going into space she responded, "It may be too bad that our society isn't further along and that this is such a big deal.”
  3. She became a cultural icon: Billy Joel mentions Sally Ride in his #1 hit “We Didn’t Start the Fire.”
  4. She is well rounded: Besides her Ph.D. in astrophysics, she has an English degree!
  5. She wasn’t afraid of change: Ms. Ride transferred from Swarthmore College to Stanford University her junior year.
  6. She was anything but traditional: No wedding limo for her, she had a pilot’s license and she flew her own plane to the ceremony.
  7. She followed her interests: A rising star in the tennis world, Sally could have pursued a professional tennis career. Instead she chose a more cerebral route.
  8.  She didn’t let stereotypes define her: One of her first dreams was to be a professional football player.
  9. She followed her heart: She spent 27 years with her partner Tam O'Shaughnessy.
  10. She was a champion of women: Dr. Ride devoted much of her life to encouraging women and girls to pursue STEM careers through her foundation, Sally Ride Science.


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