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ECE Graduate and NASA Astronaut, José Hernández, delivers the College of Engineering’s 2014 Commencement Address

June 23rd, 2014

photo of jose hernandez giving the commencement address
The following are highlights from the transcript of the speech delivered by NASA Astronaut José Hernández (Master of Science, Electrical and Computer Engineering, 1986) at the Engineering & Sciences commencement ceremony on Saturday, June 14, 2014.

DREAMING OF BECOMING AN ASTRONAUT AND HIS FATHER’S FIVE INGREDIENT RECIPE:

1) If you want to reach for the stars my father said, the first ingredient is to define my goal and decide what I wanted to be when I grew up: I of course had the fresh images on my mind of the last Apollo mission, Apollo 17. I recalled the images of Gene Cernan walking on the surface of the moon, talking to mission control Houston and the newscaster, Walter Cronkite, narrating the mission. These images are what inspired me to want to become an astronaut.

2) If you want to reach for the stars he said, the second ingredient is to recognize how far I was from my goal: I thought about it for a while and without thinking told him that I probably couldn’t be any further away given our social-economic status. Instead of getting mad at me he gave me a smile and said: I’m glad you recognize this because….

3) If you want to reach for the stars he said, the third ingredient is to draw yourself a roadmap from where you are to where you want to be. This roadmap should have as much detail as possible and will serve as your guide throughout life.

4) If you want to reach for the stars he said, the fourth ingredient he is to prepare yourself with the appropriate level of education. He went on the say that there was no substitute for a good education.

5) Finally, if you want to reach for the stars he said, the fifth ingredient is to develop a work ethic second to none. He reminded me of how hard I worked in the fields during the weekends and summers and pointed to my books and asked me to put that same effort in my studies and that upon graduating college to put that effort in my job. Always, always, he said give people more than what they expect. This should be your normal mode of operation.

Mix all this he said and this is the recipe to reach for your stars.

I remembered going to bed so happy that evening because my parents thought I could become an astronaut therefore I was determined to become one.

JOSÉ HERNÁNDEZ ADDS HIS OWN SIXTH INGREDIENT TO HIS FATHER’S RECIPE:

6) Perhaps a sixth ingredient I would add to my father’s recipe is perseverance. You see, I’m here to tell you that NASA rejected my astronaut application not once, twice three or even six times but 11 times! It was not until my twelfth attempt that I finally succeeded in becoming an astronaut.

José Hernández — 2014 UCSB Commencement Address (full transcript)

ECE Profile of Distinction — José Hernández