Hidden Figures make America great

My family had the opportunity to see the movie “Hidden Figures” recently. It may be one of the finest movies I have seen in the past few years. From the online movie summary, it is about the “incredible untold story of Katherine G. Johnson, Dorothy Vaughan and Mary Jackson – brilliant African-American women working at NASA, who served as the brains behind one of the greatest operations in history: the launch of astronaut John Glenn into orbit….The visionary trio crossed all gender and race lines to inspire generations to dream big.”

The movie stars Taraji P. Henson, Octavia Spencer, and Janelle Monáe, with a key role for Kevin Costner. These three mathematicians helped plot a course into space, so that our astronauts could return safely. And, when computers were destined to replace them, one taught other African-American women in the computing department how to program in Fortran to save their jobs and supply capable talent to the NASA space effort, since so few folks knew Fortran.

We must value diversity for its own sake, but also from economic and development standpoints. If we limit where ideas can come from, we limit ideas. It gets no simpler than that math equation. As Johnson notes, math does not care what color you are. The other key point is the math to launch, orbit and return safely was breaking new ground, so innovative thinking was key. Johnson offered that kind of innovation, which married some old school math to solve the new problems.

Throughout history, ideas have come from those who understand and are in proximity to the problem. A gay man named Alan Turing saved over a million lives in World War II and shortened the war by two years per General Dwight Eisenhower by solving the Nazi Enigma communication code. Yet, he had to hide his homosexuality and was later imprisoned for it when discovered. This WWII hero died in jail. The 2014 movie “The Imitation Game” is about Turing’s efforts.

A black man named Vivien Thomas helped solve the Blue Baby death problem by restoring the full flow of blood from the heart through groundbreaking open heart surgery on a baby. Yet, like the NASA mathematicians, he had to battle racism which would not allow him in the operating room, at first. His story is told in the 2004 movie, “Something the Lord Made.”

Jesus said we should treat each other like we want to be treated. It is the right thing to do, but it is also the wise thing to do. Please remember this quote from an economist who advised Presidents Reagan and Clinton, “Innovation is portable.” And, where it occurs is where the jobs start. So, we need to let innovative ideas flourish regardless of their source.

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21 thoughts on “Hidden Figures make America great

  1. This is all so true. I am making a note of all these movies (none of which I have seen and they all sound like ones I would love) and I will be checking them out. It is difficult to say just how many innovations and how much greatness we’ve missed out on in society due to our discrimination. Thanks for sharing these suggestions!

    • All good movies. The “innovation not known” is an interesting question. “Something the Lord Made” stars Alan Rickman, while “The Imitation Game” stars Benedict Cumberbatch.

  2. Progress and development can only come from diversity! First of all, because no one is able to do or know everything. On the other hand, that is what inspires to activate more within ourselves! Only together we are strong!

  3. I saw it on MLK day and he showed up in the movie! Best movie I’ve seen in a long time too. and so inspirational. I didn’t know about Turing or the others you mention. absolutely, we need all ideas on deck, wherever they come from.

  4. Note to Readers: I started to include another important event highlighted in the movie 1995 “The Tuskegee Airmen,” starring Cuba Gooding, Lawrence Fishburne and countless other stars. These African-American fighter pilots were discriminated against leading up to and during WWII until an interesting thing was noticed. These pilots were not allowed to fly many missions as white bombardiers did not want them protecting their planes, so they practiced and practiced, honing their skills as pilots. When given the chance, the white pilots started noticing more of their B52s were returning when protected by the African-America fighter pilots. So, bombers began requesting their help. This is a merit based promotion if I ever saw one.

    The next time you hear a white supremacist group elevate themselves above other groups, please remember these movies and events. You will then know what a load of BS those white supremacist groups are dishing out.

  5. Dear Keith,

    This is why I value diversity in the workplace. People do not all think alike, and allowing folks to voice their ideas in an environment that values this participation, makes for an ideal place to work.

    I have seen the movies, Hidden Figures and the Imitation Game. Both are worth having in one’s library. I’m going to have to order the movie “The Tuskegee Airmen.” Thanks for the tip.

    Ciao, Gronda

    • We are most definitely on the same page. There is a company who works with Apple and others that comes up with innovations. They purposefully staff teams with diverse backgrounds, education to come up with unusual designs. Keith

  6. We loved Hidden Figures! We took my oldest daughter to see it, at her request, and it was such a great movie. The whole audience clapped and cheered throughout the movie. It was a fun experience.

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