Being Small and Different
Astronaut Leroy Chiao is a veteran of four space missions, recently acting as Commander of Expedition 10 aboard the International Space Station. He has logged over 229 days in space - over 36 hours of which were spent in Extra-Vehicular Activity (EVA, or spacewalks). He served as a member of the White House appointed Review of U.S. Human Spaceflight Plans Committee.
Dr. Chiao left NASA in 2005 and is involved in entrepreneurial business ventures and works in the US, China, Japan and Russia. He is a director of Excalibur Almaz, a private manned spaceflight company. In addition, he is a director of InNexus, a biotechnology/pharmaceutical development company. Active as a consultant and public speaker, he also serves as the Chairman of the National Space Biomedical Research Institute User Panel, which is attached to the Baylor College of Medicine. Dr. Chiao is a director of Challenger Center and of the Committee of 100. He is also an advisor and spokesman for the Heinlein Prize Trust.
Question: What's the biggest obstacle you ever had to overcome?
Leroy Chiao: The biggest obstacle I've had to overcome. You know, I will say, I'm an American, I was born in the United States, I'm proud to be an American, I'm an American first. But obviously, I'm a Chinese-American. And growing up, my family, my parents, and I think rightly so didn't put us in Chinatown, didn't put us with our other ethnic group, but put us in mainstream America and that helped us to -- they're thinking was that will help us assimilate into the mainstream and be a part of it. And it did. But as a young person in a predominately white area, I was picked on quite a bit, and I was the smallest kid in the class because my birthday is in August, so I started school early. So, I was always the smallest kid. So, I had some real challenges growing up, especially in middle school. But I overcame all of that, but that was probably the biggest challenges was just getting through that time and getting a perspective.
You know, and to take something positive out of that, you know, it did give me perspective. It certainly gave me tolerance of other people, of other races, of other ethnicities and I think that's helped make me a better person.
Recorded on December 16, 2009
Leroy Chiao had to overcome being picked on for his small stature and being one of the few minorities in his mostly white Midwest town.
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