Thad Roberts presents at Speakers Forum

THAD “THIEF TURNED ADVENTURER” ROBERTS SPEAKS in the Darrin Communications Center. The astronaut shared many personal anecdotes in his talk.

The talk with Thad Roberts last Thursday in DCC 308 had some interesting stories. For example, after explaining how NASA’s internships are backwards—essentially, you get accepted into the program and then you interview for positions in specific areas—Roberts talked about how he got his dream internship: scuba diving with astronauts. A couple of weeks before his interview for this position, Roberts found a random wallet on the ground. He called the owner of the wallet and left messages, but never heard back. He knew the owner worked at NASA, so he found him at work, gave him the wallet back, and that was the end of that—so it seemed. When interviewing for the internship position, the interviewer turned out to be the random stranger whose wallet he found! The guy immediately gave him the job. It was a nice reminder that sometimes doing the right thing can come back to you in the future.

Another interesting story was about how Roberts and a couple of friends stole moon rocks from NASA. This was a long, hilarious anecdote about how Roberts broke into NASA—that’s not something you hear about every day. He and his friends succeeded in getting the rocks, but then they went to sell them to a buyer. Little did they know the entire sell was just a set-up by the FBI. Hearing Roberts describe having 40 guns stuck in his face was chilling and pretty unreal to think about. In the end, Roberts ended up going to jail for about 100 months for his crime.

The last anecdote that I liked took place in federal prison. Roberts, after a few years in, decided that he wanted something joyful during the holiday season. So he built a nine foot tall snowman, which there was no rule against. When one warden knocked down his snowman, a miniature war broke out between the inmates and the warden; they built snowmen, he knocked them down. The inmates finally built a 22 foot wide, 22 foot tall mountain of snow with a snowman on top. The warden couldn’t even come close to getting the snowman down. It was inspiring, in a kind of twisted way.

Essentially, the entire talk was a bunch of personal anecdotes about Roberts’ life. Some were interesting, like the snowman war. Some were flat out boring, like all the jobs Roberts tried before he decided he wanted to be an astronaut. Still, there were many good lessons that came out of what he was saying, such as the fact that life is “about having a dream and not about getting there.” If you have a dream, you have a purpose in life. Also, there was the idea of how negative thoughts and situations are not going to go away. Life is full of negativity, but you can learn to deal with it. Roberts also discussed that no one really has the answers to big questions about life. But if you are comfortable with not knowing the answers, you can spend life accepting people for their differences and their explanations.

While there were some really good lessons, there were still parts of the presentation that I didn’t like. Roberts’ voice was not always the most enthralling. He was kind of quiet and monotone, which made it somewhat difficult to be interested in what he was saying. And while he did have a 10 minute video at the end of the presentation, I wished he had some other visual to fall back on. Basically, I just got talked to for an hour and a half. I wished there was some sort of visual piece where I wasn’t just staring at some random person. In a way, I felt I was in lecture for class, and who wants to be in lecture when they don’t have to? Also, some of his stories were not necessary. He would occasionally ramble on and on, and sometimes there wasn’t that much relevance.

Overall I didn’t feel like the entire presentation was the most organized. He jumped around a bit, and it was hard to follow his flow of thinking. There were points of the talk were boring or awkward, but there were some topics that were interesting and really important. I would still recommend going to the future talks by the Union Speakers Forum, because you paid for them with your student activity fee. You might as well get your money’s worth.