Saturday, July 29, 2006

Tribute to Dr. Ronald E. McNair (circa 1986)

Thanks to Dr. Sandin (Ron and my General Physics professor at North Carolina A & T State University), this was found among his many papers in semi-retirement. The letter and poem are 20.5 years old. I record this to not misplace it again...


My Dear Friends,

Since my commission, I have traveled many miles, seen many places. I have laughed, loved, enjoying life as an alumnus. My casual wear-about-town has slowly developed into my Aggie class ring, any Aggie Shirt, and my Aggie cap. I also spend my Aggie time trying to explain to the average Texan that I am not from Texas A & M!

I wish that these times were not so sad. As you cried, I cried too. My sadness was magnified as I thought of you, all of you. When the tears no longer flowed, I realized this was not the way to remember our friend.

I’ll remember my first glimpse of Ron McNair as not in person. I was fourteen, reading an A & T alumni newspaper. Trying to decide what I wanted to do with my life. Reading the article inspired me. The fall of 1980 found me on the campus of my hero: quiet, bright, undisciplined. The path I had chosen was wrought with traps of failure. And I did fail, but I would not quit, because he would not.

I’ll remember the first time I met him. He was hailed our conquering hero, our knight in shining armor. I was involved in the festivities until days end. By this time, Ron had graduated from my idol to my friend.

I had hoped to see him again in Houston, Texas since I lived right next door in Austin. Now, that hope is gone but, I will not despair. He would not want us to.

I will remember him as a winner in the true sense of the word. His presence was dazzling, yet his attitude humble. He remembered the road many of us are still traveling.

If we can learn anything from this tragedy, let us learn from the example of his life. In all his travels, he knew of his obligation to help others. He knew his light must shine “from Dare to Cherokee” and the four corners of the earth. He never forgot about his second home, A & T, and never let any opportunity slip by to tell someone what a special place it was. This home is Ron McNair’s heart. If this is so, he will live forever.

My love to you all,

An Epitaph for my Hero
© 1986, Reginald L. Goodwin

He would come from humble beginnings,
A young brother with great dreams,
And a strong will determining
His own tomorrow; It seems

A&T has produced leaders, some
Giants in their fields,
With humble knowledge of whence they’d come,
Always befriending others in need,

McNair too on the ‘Aggie Struggle’
In pursuit of his degree,
Then onward to dare, challenge and trouble
MIT for his PhD

He was our hero, this Aggie gladiator
Yet: on this note we all must think,
Each person has a pre-scored
Date with destiny we must keep.

As phoenix met its fiery end,
So too will he rise again,
And on that day of happiness we will then
Meet and greet a long lost friend.

Think not of our great loss,
But of history’s gain.
Let us remember him by paying the costs
He did to rise to fame.

An Aggie is best remembered
Not just in the tears we shed,
But in emulation and earnest meditation
Of the inspiring life he led.

We can only pray our loss
Is to God’s saving grace,
And know that Ron still thinks of us
(As we him), out there… exploring space.

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