Heroes

An astronaut's touching tribute to Carrie Fisher shows why she inspired so many.

Fisher inspired a generation of girls and women to push the limits and explore the unknown.

An astronaut's touching tribute to Carrie Fisher shows why she inspired so many.

On Dec. 28, 2016, French astronaut Thomas Pesquet tweeted a tribute to the late Carrie Fisher.

The message, coming just a day after Fisher's death, was simple: "Princesses shouldn't be passive, girls have character & ability to lead. The world needs them to fulfill their potential — thanks, Carrie Fisher."

When "Star Wars: A New Hope" was released in 1977, NASA had already landed men on the moon, but a woman had yet to travel to outer space.

Sally Ride wouldn't make history as the first woman in space until June 1983 (coincidentally, one month after the release of the final installment in the "Star Wars" original trilogy). Princess Leia, while fictional, gave girls everywhere something to aspire to and helped fill the void left behind when "Star Trek" and Nichelle Nichols' iconic portrayal of Lt. Uhura had gone off the air almost a decade earlier.


Photo by Disney Parks via Getty Images.

Fisher's portrayal of the strong-willed "Star Wars" heroine has inspired women around — and sometimes out of — this world.

Pesquet's tribute to Fisher included a photo of U.S. astronaut Peggy Whitson, one of nearly 60 women to have traveled in space. At 56, Whitson recently made history as the oldest woman in space. On Jan. 5, Whitson, who is on the International Space Station, made her first space walk of 2017, meaning just like Luke and Leia, Whitson is a true "Skywalker."

It's women like Peggy Whitson and Carrie Fisher who help inspire generations of young women to reach for the stars.

Remarking on Fisher's return as Gen. Leia Organa in 2015's "The Force Awakens," writer Anne Theriault explained how even today, 40 years after taking on that iconic role, she inspires us.

"She was given the title of princess because of who her parents were, but she earned the rank of general through hard and often miserable work," wrote Theriault. "We love the mythos that heroes get where they are because they are special or chosen, and the people we hold up as icons reflect that."

By breaking the mold of a damsel in distress, Fisher's Leia Organa came to represent something ambitious and unexpected. Maybe she wasn't "chosen" and maybe she wasn't "special," but through hard work, she achieved her goals.

Wherever we look for our heroes, ranging from fictional characters to real-life astronauts, the world is filled with inspiration all around us.

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Heather Cox Richardson didn't set out to build a fan base when she started her daily "Letters from an American." The Harvard-educated political historian and Boston College professor had actually just been stung by a yellow-jacket as she was leaving on a trip from her home in Maine to teach in Boston last fall when she wrote her first post.

Since she's allergic to bees, she decided to stay put and see how badly her body would react. With some extra time on her hands, she decided to write something on her long-neglected Facebook page. It was September of 2019, and Representative Adam Schiff had just sent a letter to the Director of National Intelligence stating that the House knew there was a whistleblower complaint, the DNI wasn't handing it over, and that wasn't legal.

"I recognized, because I'm a political historian, that this was the first time that a member of Congress had found a specific law that they were accusing a specific member of the executive branch of violating," Richardson told Bill Moyers in an interview in July. "So I thought, you know, I oughta put that down, 'cause this is a really important moment. If you knew what you were looking for, it was a big moment. So I wrote it down..."

By the time she got to Boston she has a deluge of questions from people about what she'd written.

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As part of its promise for a brighter world, Dole is partnering with Bye Bye Plastic Bags's efforts to bring sunshine to all.

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When I opened Twitter Saturday morning, I saw "Chris Evans" and "Captain America" trending. Evans is my favorite of the Marvel Chrises, so naturally I clicked to see what was happening with him—then quickly became confused. I saw people talking about "nude leaks," some remarks about (ahem) "size," and something about how he'd accidentally leaked naked photos of himself. But as I scrolled through the feed (not looking for the pics, just trying to figure out what happened) the only photos I saw were of him and his dog, occasionally sprinkled with handsome photos of him fully clothed.

Here's what had happened. Evans apparently had shared a video in his Instagram stories that somehow ended with an image of his camera roll. Among the tiled photos was a picture of a penis. No idea if it was his and really don't care. Clearly, it wasn't intentional and it appears the IG story was quickly taken down.

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Photo by Charl Folscher on Unsplash

Harvard historian Donald Yacovone didn't set out to write the book he's writing. His plan was to write about the legacy of the antislavery movement and the rise of the Civil Rights era, but as he delved into his research, he ran into something that changed the focus of his book completely: Old school history textbooks.

Now the working title of his book is: "Teaching White Supremacy: The Textbook Battle Over Race in American History."

The first book that caught his attention was an 1832 textbook written Noah Webster—as in Merriam-Webster's Dictionary—called "History of the United States." Yacovone, a 2013 recipient of Harvard's W.E.B. Du Bois medal—the university's highest award for African American studies—told the Harvard Gazette about his discovery:

"In Webster's book there was next to nothing about the institution of slavery, despite the fact that it was a central American institution. There were no African Americans ever mentioned. When Webster wrote about Africans, it was extremely derogatory, which was shocking because those comments were in a textbook. What I realized from his book, and from the subsequent ones, was how they defined 'American' as white and only as white. Anything that was less than an Anglo Saxon was not a true American. The further along I got in this process, the more intensely this sentiment came out. I realized that I was looking at, there's no other word for it, white supremacy. I came across one textbook that declared on its first page, 'This is the White Man's History.' At that point, you had to be a dunce not to see what these books were teaching."

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