Carl McNair, founder of the Dr. Ronald E. McNair Foundation has written a new book in honor of his brother who died along with six of his astronaut colleagues aboard the Space Shuttle Challenger on January 28, 1986. In The Spirit of Ronald McNair is an inspiring story of an American hero whose story serves as a model for people from all walks of life. Urbane Renaissance Society took a moment to talk with Mr. Carl McNair about this touching story.
11:30 am on February 1, 2006
It's 11:30 am on a chilly February morning. I think to myself "February 1st, the beginning of Black History Month. What a perfect day to hear the story of an African American legend from someone who is a legend himself. Boy am I lucky." I anxiously browse the bookshelves as I await the arrival of Carl McNair, a well-respected educational trailblazer and the brother of Dr. Ronald E. McNair, an African American legend whose inspiring story should be passed from generation to generation. I scan the cafe for about two minutes until I caught a glimpse of Carl McNair from my peripheral vision. Full vision was not required to recognize the 'all about business' man with the profound story to tell. The brief case, casual but immaculately professional attire, and PDA told it all. Mr. McNair had places to go and people to see. Furthermore, I checked his website and did a Google search on him. He's got speaking engagements all over the country and his name is all over the Internet. I feel so proud and honored to have a moment of his time. When Mr. McNair approaches we shake hands and exchange and thank you's. After he offers to buy me a cup of coffee, we sit down for a delightful chat.
Urbane Renaissance Society: Thank you for joining me Mr. McNair. I am so pleased to meet you. I know that you are extremely busy, so I'll only take a few moments of your time. The first question I'd like to ask is what inspired you to write In the Spirit of Ronald E. McNair?
Carl McNair: My brother's children began to ask more about Ronald after he passed away. So, once I put pen to paper, my wife said, 'Carl, you must do this. Just do what you have to do'. My wife has really supported me. Furthermore, I felt that Ronald's story needed to be told. He had overcome so much to become one of the world's first African American space shuttle astronauts. You see, Ronald and I came of age during the Civil Rights Movement where teaching and the ministry were the only professional career options available to African Americans. They told us that we had to work twice as hard. Our devoted Black teachers helped us to overcome these disadvantages though, even with old textbooks handed down from white schools.
Urbane Renaissance Society: That is so moving and inspiring Mr. McNair. How long did it taken you to complete this book?
Carl McNair: I actually began writing my first line 20 years ago, just after Ronald lost his life on the tragic Challenger space shuttle accident.
Urbane Renaissance Society: How challenging was it to write about your brother after such a tragic loss?
Carl McNair: It was an emotional roller coaster. But I really buckled down to writing the book within the past couple of years because I knew that 1/28/06, the 20th anniversary of the Challenger accident, would soon arrive.
Urbane Renaissance Society: People really admire you for doing this Mr. McNair. I cannot imagine how difficult it was to relive that tragic moment while writing this touching story. I recall watching the Challenger accident on the TV in my college dormitory with my roommate from Maryland. We could not believe our eyes. It was so devasting.
Carl: Thank you Carla. It certainly wasn't easy. The Challenger accident was a JFK moment. Everyone remembers exactly where they were and what they were doing on that day.
Urbane Renaissance Society: What is the fondest memory you have of Ronald?
Carl: There are so many fond memories. I am only 10 months older than Ronald, so we were very close. We went through elementary and high school together. Though we were smart, we had our fun. And boy, did we have fun. One of the funniest things we'd done was to try climbing to the top of a 150 water tower near our high school in South Carolina. Before we can make it to the top we were drenched in water. This happened in the middle of the school day, so we returned to the classroom soaking wet and embarrassed.
Urbane Renaissance Society: Oh my God! That is too funny! You guys really had a good time. Tell me, did you have any key mentors while writing In the Spirit of Ronald E. McNair?
Carl McNair: Yes. I've had so much support and some excellent mentoring. Cecil Murphey, the author of Gifted Hands, a biography about Dr. Ben Carson, has been a magnificent mentor.
Urbane Renaissance Society: Mr McNair, thank you so much for your time. Is has been a pleasure talking with you. Please tell me one more important thing you'd like the world to know about In the Spirit of Ronald E. McNair.
Carl McNair:Getting published was not my sole objective for writing this book. I wanted young African Americans to read the story of another African American hero and be inspired. I certainly hope that my book will touch someone. In addition, proceeds from In the Spirit of Ronald E. McNair go to the Ronald McNair Foundation Space Scholarship Program.
Carl S. McNair is the Founder of the Dr. Ronald E. McNair Foundation, Inc. in Atlanta, Georgia. The Foundation is named in honor of his brother who died along with six of his astronaut colleagues aboard the Space Shuttle Challenger on January 28, 1986. The Foundation is dedicated to developing and implementing educational programs that motivate and encourage students to pursue careers in Science, Mathematics and Technology. Under Carl’s leadership, the Foundation created the Challengers Club Space Camps, the Challengers Club Science Mentoring Educational Program, and the In-Service Teachers Training Program. He also conducts leadership and Space Science workshops for Talent Search and Upward Bound programs across the country. The Foundation’s programs have been featured on CNN, ABC, NBC and CBS television networks and in a variety of news publications.
He is also the Founder and CEO of McNair Achievement Programs whose mission is to help empower aspiring leaders, organizations and individuals to unleash their human potential to achieve their goals and enjoy a life they love. Whether speaking to university audiences, Fortune 500 companies or civic organizations, Carl’s has a passion for helping people succeed and live “a purpose driven life”.
Annually, Carl is asked t o give keynote addresses, workshops and/or conduct seminars for numerous organizations and Trio Programs; this includes over 100 colleges/universities with Ronald E. McNair Scholars Programs, Upward Bound, Talent Search and other educational programs. He has made speaking appearances in over 35 states including Hawaii as well as Puerto Rico. After his brother’s tragic death, Carl began speaking to groups, sharing his brother’s story so that others would find hope, inspiration and the courage to follow their dreams. Carl is known for his inspirational keynote speeches, powerful seminars and exemplary leadership.
He earned his Bachelors of Science degree in Industrial Technology from North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University in Greensboro, North Carolina and a Master of Business Administration (MBA) from Babson College in Wellesley, Massachusetts. Carl and his wife, Mary Alice, resides in Atlanta, Georgia and has one daughter, Desiree’.
For more information about
Carl McNair and the Ronald E. McNair Foundation visit his website at http://www.ronaldmcnair.org.